Flanker Dave Dennis and center Rob Horne have been released from the Wallabies’ training camp to bolster the New South Wales Waratahs for their match against the British and Irish Lions tomorrow.
Amid continuing controversy over the weakness of the provincial sides facing the Lions on their tour matches, the pair are to fly down from the Queensland camp to take part in the match at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Halfbacks Bernard Foley and Ben Lucas on Wednesday were also released from the Australia squad preparing for the IRB’s World Cup Sevens tournament to reinforce the team.
“It’s good,” Lions coach Warren Gatland said. “It’s an opportunity for those players, if they’re not going to be selected for the first Test, to have a run against us and perhaps even go back and have a bit of information on us for the Australian side as well.”
“It’s great for the players and great for us as well,” he added.
New South Wales are traditionally one of Australia’s strongest provinces, but coach Michael Cheika had been trying to put together a side with 10 players in the Wallabies squad and another three injured internationals.
The Lions have only faced a challenge in one of their four tour matches so far, against the Queensland Reds, and there have been concerns they might go into the first Test on June 22 underprepared because of the lack of meaningful opposition.
Former Lions and England coach Clive Woodward accused the Australians of treating the tourists with “contempt” when the Western Force rested several first-team players for their 69-17 defeat in Perth.
Woodward also suggested the Lions should consider not returning to Australia if they were continued to be offered weak opposition in preparation for the three-Test series against the Wallabies.
Although the Lions management have been more diplomatic than Woodward, there is no doubt there have been concerns about what lessons can be learned from comprehensive victories over undergunned teams.
The ACT Brumbies’ utility forward Peter Kimlin and prop Scot Sio have also been released from the Wallabies squad to play against the Lions in Tuesday’s final tour match before the Test series gets under way in Brisbane.