Australia debutant Cadeyrn Neville has been acclaimed as a standard bearer to determined veterans who still have their hearts set on playing at the highest level.
At 33 years and 235 days, Neville becomes the third oldest Wallaby to make his Test bow after being picked in the second row for Saturday’s collision with England at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
Picked in training squads since 2012 by four different Australia coaches without ever winning a cap, he has now been rewarded for an impressive season at the ACT Brumbies in which his set piece expertise and work rate have shone out.
A rich sporting career began in rugby league and he also represented his country at rowing in the Youth Olympics before settling in union, with a spell in Japan interrupting his time in Super Rugby.
“Cadeyrn got called into a Wallabies squad at the time when Michael Hooper made his debut, so that tells you something. Hoops has had 118 caps since then,” head coach Dave Rennie said.
“He’s an ex-rower and that’s why he’s got such a massive engine. He played a bit of league at one stage. He’s a big man so you would have noticed him out there.
“He’s had injuries, he’s spent a bit of time overseas and he’s come back for a final dig. He’s a big man and a good athlete.
“He’s a great story for the guys out there who might have thought the dream had passed them. From a perseverance point of view it’s a great story.”
Hooker David Porecki is the second new face in Australia’s starting XV and although younger at 29-years-old, he has also been making waves in the latter stages of his career.
Spells at Saracens and London Irish have left Porecki with a clear understanding of how England like to play.
“You get an insight into their set piece and into their mentality and what their foundations are built on,” Porecki said.
“It is old-school, traditional rugby that they have modernised, but their foundations stay the same.
“It revolves around a strong set piece, kicking game, territory, exactly what we are expecting when we face them on Saturday. They build their game around that.”
Quade Cooper partners Nic White at half-back after James O’Connor was ruled out of contention for the number 10 jersey, but the latter should figure in the second Test in Brisbane.
“James isn’t quite sharp enough yet. He missed a big chunk of the second half of the year because of two different injuries,” added Rennie.
“While he’s back fit and available, he just lacks a bit of sharpness. Quade brings a calmness, massive experience and has trained very well.”
Australia team to play England on Saturday: T Banks; A Kellaway, L Ikitau, S Kerevi, M Koroibete; Q Cooper, N White; A Bell, D Porecki, A Ala’alatoa, D Swain, C Neville, R Leota, M Hooper (capt), R Valetini. Replacements: F Fainga’a, S Sio, J Slipper, M Philip, P Samu, J Gordon, N Lolesio, J Petaia.