Hoiles rewarded for season of hard toil with Wallabies recall

May 28, 2010

On a day when the Wallabies selectors emphasised their youth policy by picking five new front-rowers in their 30-man squad, they also remembered a forward elder who believed he would never again be sighted in the green and gold.

Amid the excitement surrounding the inclusion of newcomers Saia Faingaa, Huia Edmonds, Ben Daley, Laurie Weeks and Salesi Ma'afu was also relief that Brumbies captain and No.8 Stephen Hoiles had returned to the Wallabies fold.

Hoiles's inclusion for next month's home Tests against Fiji, England and Ireland showed that the Australian selectors' prime criteria was form, enabling the back-rower to resurrect a stuttering Test career which he believed had come to a full stop. The 28-year-old, who has appeared in 16 Tests, has not been sighted in Wallabies colours since the second Test against France in 2008, and was tiring of being ignored for other No.8 Test candidates - Wycliff Palu and Richard Brown.

However the Test selectors - Robbie Deans, David Nucifora and Jim Williams - yesterday gave Hoiles a lifeline when they chose him ahead of Leroy Houston and Ben Mowen for the second No.8 spot in the squad.

When announcing Hoiles's selection yesterday, Deans explained how devastated the player was when he missed out on last year's end-of-season northern hemisphere tour.

''Steve made the comment at the time that this was the end for him, because he felt if he didn't make that trip, he probably would never be a Wallaby again,'' Deans said.

''But he's shown through this year's Super 14 campaign that if you are prepared to keep working at it, age is irrelevant. History is irrelevant. It is what you make of the moment. He's shown that he can be a better player, and [has] been rewarded. Anything is possible if you continually want to improve.''

That's why Hoiles was relieved when he received the reassuring phone call from Deans on Wednesday. ''I thought it was going to be another tough phone call. It was certainly nicer than the previous ones,'' Hoiles said yesterday. ''Then again, you're always surprised these days. Let's just say, I don't get too confident.''

Hoiles said that missing out on the last Wallabies tour ''was a pretty tough one to take''.

''But you always know that he [Deans] generally picks on form,'' Hoiles said. ''So getting back in the squad is nice, because I was happy with my consistency this year, whereas in previous years I'd been on and off, week in and week out.

''Now I'll be happy to get a chance in the A game, because you just want to play a decent amount of footy and get some time on the field in front of the selectors. You have to be in their sights to impress.''

Although there were no major surprises, some notable names missed out, including Waratahs skipper Phil Waugh and NSW prop Al Baxter, while Brumbies winger Pat McCabe, the Australian Super 14 Rookie of the Year, was overlooked.

Among those unavailable for selection are Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, James Horwill, Palu, Stirling Mortlock, Sekope Kepu, Scott Higginbotham and Rod Davies, while Will Genia, Peter Hynes and Tatafu Polota-Nau, who were included, are expected to miss several of the June Tests because of injuries.

Daley, the new loose-head prop, and second-rower Rob Simmons - who was included among the 10 extra names to be part of the Australian Barbarians squad - will also be unavailable for a short period.

The Australian Rugby Union also confirmed the European leg of the Wallabies' end-of-season tour, which will involve Tests against Wales in Cardiff on November 6, followed by England (Twickenham, November 13), Italy (Florence, November 20) and France (Paris, November 27).

There will also be three midweek games, including one against Munster. The other two will be in England and France.