Force, Waratahs players asked to join Rennie's PONI squad ahead of Bledisloe Tests

· International
by Christy Doran

Originally published on RUGBY.com.au

In an endorsement and welcomed boost to West Australian rugby, new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has asked three Force players to stay behind in preparation for the much-hoped for Bledisloe Cup series and Rugby Championship over the coming months.

One Test back Kyle Godwin, back-rower Brynard Stander and 25-year-old hooker Feleti Kaitu'u will join 12 Waratahs in Rennie's Players of National Interest squad.

Selected players from whichever side gets knocked out next Saturday in the preliminary final - either the Reds or Rebels - will then be asked to join the group the following week, before Rennie officially names his squad following the Super Rugby AU final on September 19.

It's expected that Rennie will name an enlarged squad of up to 46 players for the Bledisloe series and Rugby Championship given the New Zealander won't have the luxury of being able to call on troops on a whim should he need to because of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

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Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby are working towards an October 10 Bledisloe opener, with a second Test to follow a week later on October 17.

Just whether The Rugby Championship goes ahead is still to be determined.

World Rugby has extended the international window until early December to allow for the TRC and Six Nations to ahead.

SANZAAR had proposed New Zealand hold the tournament and set up a hub to facilitate the movements of players, but recent COVID-19 outbreaks has opened up the possibility of Australia holding the tournament.

News on Saturday though that six Argentine players have tested positive to COVID-19 could curtail the tournament, which all four competing nations are desperate goes ahead.

The Force trio will spend the next week based in Sydney and train at the Waratahs' headquarters at Daceyville alongside 12 of the Rob Penney's NSW squad.

There are five uncapped Waratahs in the PONI squad, including prop Angus Bell, hooker Tom Horton, back-rower Lachie Swinton, playmaker Will Harrison and outside back James Ramm.

Others included are incumbent captain Michael Hooper, Test centurion Rob Simmons, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jack Dempsey, Ned Hanigan, Jake Gordon and Jack Maddocks.

Wallabies attack coach Scott Wisemantel and strength and conditioning coach John Pryor will put the 15 players through their paces throughout the week.

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The addition of the Force trio in particular will warm the hearts of those in the West.

Following their culling from Super Rugby in 2017 the Force didn't have a player on their roster wear the gold jersey.

But their return to Super Rugby AU in 2020 has allowed for their talent to go head to head with their domestic rivals on a weekly basis.

The Force failed to notch a win during the eight-match tournament, but came close on a number of occasions including their heartbreaking 34-30 last minute loss to the Rebels on Saturday.

This article was originally published on RUGBY.com.au.

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