The squad features three uncapped players, including controversial AFL convert Israel Folau who is in just his first season of rugby union.
The other debutants are Brumbies captain Ben Mowen and centre Christian Lealiifano, but there is no place for Reds fly-half Quade Cooper. Cooper, who has 38 caps, still has two Super 15 games and the Reds fixture against the Lions on 8 June to impress selectors before the final 31 are chosen.
He had been Australia’s first choice fly-half until injury struck at the 2011 World Cup. He then fell out with Deans for criticising the “toxic” environment in the Wallabies camp. “People will say that’s the end for Quade but that’s not the case,” said coach Robbie Deans. “Test rugby is another level from Super Rugby; we would like to see Quade defend in the front line and we would like him to assert himself more physically.”
Deans confirmed that James O’Connor, who has started just one Test at fly-half, would be his first choice option there.
There is also no room for George Smith, the man who played so well against the Lions in 2001. His absence leaves the door open for young Reds flanker Liam Gill to make his mark.
Preliminary Australia 25-man squad: Ben Alexander, Berrick Barnes, Nick Cummins, Dave Dennis, Saia Fainga’a, Israel Folau, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Christian Lealiifano, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, James O’Connor, Wycliff Palu, Benn Robinson, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Joe Tomane.
What do you make of the squad? Is it good enough to beat the Lions? Are there any players you are relieved not to see there, or any you are particularly wary of?