Scone's Nic White named in Australian rugby squad for two Test series against New Zealand All Blacks

Nic's comeback almost complete

SCONE'S Nic White is hoping for a shot at the All Blacks after being named in an extended Australian rugby squad at the weekend.

It's a terrific comeback story for the talented halfback, who was born in the Upper Hunter.

After five years in Canberra, a disillusioned White, 30, took his union career to Europe at the end of 2015.

He then returned to Australia last season to chase his World Cup dream.

Unfortunately, the Brumbies' depth and coronavirus periods meant White had to bide his time on the bench since announcing his homecoming from England's Exeter Chiefs.

But, he's made every post a winner in recent weeks - securing a starting berth for the ACT outfit.

Meanwhile, Dave Rennie appears intent on ushering in a new generation of Wallabies, selecting just 16 of the 31 picked for last year's World Cup.

The coach included eight Super Rugby rookies however, in an expanded 44-man line-up, there was no room for Isi Naisarani, Jack Dempsey or Tevita Kuridani.

NSW Waratahs' Karmichael Hunt was another notable absence.

Retirement and player movement abroad has also contributed to the clean-out that will see 16 uncapped players compete for spots to play the All Blacks in two New Zealand Tests next month before a Rugby Championship on home soil.

Rennie, who had preached form-based selection since taking over from Michael Cheika, said he had been clear with that trio in particular.

"If you look at Isi for example, we know what he's capable of but we've picked on form and we've constantly talked about earning the right to play and we think others have played better," he explained.

"We've spoken to those guys and we're pretty clear on the messaging."

The squad, so large because biosecurity measures will prohibit any late additions, has an average age of just 24 and includes prospects like Queensland No.8 Harry Wilson (20), who has shone in his first Super Rugby season to effectively replace Naisarani.

He is one of 11 Reds selected alongside 13 from the league-leading Brumbies, 11 Waratahs and nine Rebels.

Lachie Swinton, Fraser McReight, Hunter Paisami, Pone Fa'amausili and James Ramm and Filipo Daugunu are other fresh faces gunning for their maiden Test cap.

Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio is fit again and will compete with Matt Toomua and Reds No.10 James O'Connor for game time.

Thirty-one-year-old lock Rob Simmons is the only man to have played 100 Tests, while incumbent captain Michael Hooper (99) and prop James Slipper (96) will also face challenges from their younger squad members.

Rebels' trio Toomua (groin), Dane Haylett-Petty (groin) and Jordan Uelese (shoulder) have all been included as they await scans on their respective injuries suffered in Saturday's qualifying final loss to the Reds.

The full squad will convene next Monday following the Super Rugby AU Final between the Brumbies and Queensland Reds on Saturday night, with Rennie admitting the logistics around their two-Test series in New Zealand were all up in the air.

Space has also been left for two overseas-based players in his side not previously eligible under Rugby Australia's qualification laws to play after a recent tweak to the rules.

At least one of those spots is likely to go to a lock, with Will Skelton, Rory Arnold and Izack Rodda, who dramatically exited the Reds during the COVID-19 break to play in France, all in the mix.