Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney signs deal, but Wallabies snub ACT
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Brumbies hooker Connal McInerney signs deal, but Wallabies snub ACT

The ACT Brumbies will invest in a hooker on the rise on Friday after finalising a deal to offer Connal McInerney the first professional contract of his career.

McInerney is set to move back to Canberra in the coming months to launch his career as a full-time Super Rugby player after proving he's got what it takes to play in the competition.

Connal McInerney has won a full-time contract.

Connal McInerney has won a full-time contract.

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The former Australian under-20s rake was called into the Brumbies on a part-time basis this year to ease hooker injury headaches this season.

He is part of an emerging group of youngsters the Brumbies are ushering into their Super Rugby squad as coach Dan McKellar chases sustainable success.

McKellar has promoted young guns Tom Ross and Len Ikitau and more juniors are set to follow, while the coach has also added speedster Toni Pulu, Super Rugby champion Pete Samu and Irae Simone to the squad.

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But it appears the Brumbies have fallen out of favour with the national side, with Test coach Michael Cheika limiting his use of the club's stars this year.

The Brumbies will have just three players in the Bledisloe Cup opener on Saturday night, the club's lowest trans-Tasman representation in the past six years.

David Pocock, centre, was one of only three Brumbies to play in the series against Ireland.

David Pocock, centre, was one of only three Brumbies to play in the series against Ireland.

Photo: AAP

Rory Arnold was dropped from the Wallabies squad despite his impressive season, while Tom Banks' rise is on hold for at least one more Test.

David Pocock will be the only Brumby in the starting side, while Allan Alaalatoa and Samu have been added to the bench.

It will be the fewest amount of Brumbies in a trans-Tasman Test since Robbie Deans was coach in 2012 and continues a declining trend of ACT players in the national side in the past two years.

Cheika gave three Brumbies game-time in the series against Ireland in June. It was the Brumbies' lowest mid-year Wallabies representation in 22 years.

The Brumbies and the Queensland Reds have the equal lowest number of players in the team for the first Bledisloe, despite the Canberra side finishing just short of the play-offs.

But Canberra injuries and unavailability have contributed. Scott Sio was ruled out of selection contention with a shoulder injury, while outside centre Tevita Kuridrani had surgery on his pectoral muscle and will miss the entire Rugby Championship.

Henry Speight has signed a short-term deal to play in Ireland for the rest of the year, while electric fullback Banks has been pushing for a debut in Wallabies gold.

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Cheika has a settled side heading into the biggest home match of the year, with captain Michael Hooper set to join Pocock in a potent back row that also features Lukhan Tui at No.6.

Prop Sio has been ruled out of the match altogether with a shoulder complaint, giving Robertson a chance to shine in the No.1 jersey in what will be just his third start in international rugby.

Despite not having a whole lot of game-time under his belt, Polota-Nau will be the Wallabies’ starting rake, with Tolu Latu also edging out Brandon Paenga-Amosa for a bench spot.

There were no selection surprises in the back line, with Hodge set to play outside-centre for the first time in his Test career in what will be a major challenge for the 23-year-old up against the All Blacks midfield of Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue.

Cheika has picked a 5-3 split on the bench, with Nick Phipps, returning Wallaby Matt Toomua and potential debutant Maddocks the spare backs.

BLEDISLOE CUP DOUBLE HEADER

Saturday: Wallaroos v Black Ferns at 5pm; Wallabies v All Blacks 8.05pm. Both games at ANZ Stadium.

Wallabies: 1. Tom Robertson, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Lukhan Tui, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. David Pocock, 9. Will Genia, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Kurtley Beale, 13. Reece Hodge, 14. Dane Haylett-Petty, 15. Israel Folau. Reserves: 16. Tolu Latu, 17. Allan Alaalatoa, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Jack Maddocks.