Captain Michael Hooper was missing from the Australia squad named Thursday for two home Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa as veteran playmaker Bernard Foley earned a shock recall.
Hooper pulled out of the team’s two-match swing of Argentina this month a day before their opening clash and jetted home, saying he was not in the “right mindset” to lead his country.
In his absence, the Wallabies won the first Test 41-26 but were humiliated 48-17 in the second.
Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos previously said “you cannot put time limits on these things” when asked about Hooper’s return. Coach Dave Rennie said the 121-Test veteran had been “struggling a bit and masking that pretty well”.
Fellow Test centurion James Slipper, who took over as skipper in Argentina, is again expected to captain the side for their showdowns against the Springboks in Adelaide on August 27 and Sydney a week later.
Japan-based Foley, 32, returns for the first time since the 2019 World Cup.
The 71-Test fly-half, who plays for Kubota Spears, gets another chance with Quade Cooper out with a season-ending injury and James O’Connor not picked despite starting Australia’s last Test.
While Hooper’s absence is a blow, the Wallabies welcome back a host of players from injury, including winger Andrew Kellaway and props Angus Bell and Scott Sio.
Fellow prop Allan Alaalatoa, centre Hunter Paisami and hooker David Porecki also return after leaving the Argentina tour early for personal and injury reasons.
Young NSW Waratahs backrower Langi Gleeson was named in his first national squad with Queensland Reds fullback Jock Campbell the only other uncapped player.
“After a tough two weeks in Argentina we’re extremely pleased to be able to welcome a few men back into the mob,” said Rennie.
“To have their experience on deck will be invaluable in what’s going to be a massive challenge coming up against South Africa two weeks in a row.
“We know that respect is earned daily and we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure we put in performances that are worthy of that respect in Adelaide and Sydney.”
South Africa head into the Tests on the back of a 35-23 home loss to New Zealand, having stunned the All Blacks 26-10 in their Rugby Championship opener.
All four teams in the southern hemisphere competition have won one and lost one so far.
Australia squad: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Angus Bell, Jock Campbell, Pone Fa’amausili, Folau Fainga’a, Lalakai Foketi, Bernard Foley, Nick Frost, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge, Jed Holloway, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway, Marika Koroibete, Rob Leota, Noah Lolesio, Lachlan Lonergan, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, David Porecki, Pete Samu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Suliasi Vunivalu, Nic White, Harry Wilson, Tom Wright