Wallabies coach Eddie Jones will unveil a blend of the tried and the untried when he names his preliminary squad for the four-Test European Spring Tour on Wednesday.
Australia will initially name a 45-strong train-on squad for the tour, which includes Tests against France (Marseille, November 5), England (Twickenham, November 12), Ireland (Lansdowne Rd, November 19) and Wales (Millennium Stadium, November 26).
Jones said at least seven regulars, including fly-halves Stephen Larkham, Elton Flatley and Matt Giteau, were unlikely to be considered for the tour, which the Wallaby coach insists is an integral part of the build-up to the 2007 World Cup in France.
Jones has just returned from a five-day visit to southern France, during which he identified several training facilities for the tournament in less than two years’ time.
"We were concentrating our search around the Marseille area," Jones said.
But it is the make-up of the initial Wallaby squad that has rugby fans intrigued, especially in light of Australia’s dismal five-Test losing streak, which saw them lose three times to South Africa and twice to New Zealand.
"We need to perform much better (in Europe)," Jones said.
"We were beaten by the world’s number one and number two sides but we can do better."
Jones admitted, however, there was no need to press the panic button when it came to national selection, despite the injury crisis which had thrown his plans into disarray in the Tri-Nations.
"We will only select those players we feel are ready for Test rugby," he said.
"And we will take a close look at the group of (senior) players who have been involved, without a break, since the 2001-2002 season.
"It is important to decide when it is going to be best for them to have a break, so they can have a good off-season and then go into the World Cup campaign refreshed."
Jones said two areas of concern that needed urgent attention were the scrums and the line-outs and he hoped to address some of those shortcomings in the tour squad.
Speculation continues to mount Down Under that veteran scrum-half and skipper George Gregan might not be the right person to lead the Wallabies in the next World Cup.
Former Test captain Mark Ella believes the ARU should look immediately at grooming Matt Giteau, who turns 23 this month, as Gregan’s successor.
"I think Matty can do it," Ella told Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.
"The captain doesn’t have to have age or vast experience. (World Cup-winning skipper) Nick Farr-Jones didn’t have a great deal of experience but he was a great success.
"It’s a job where you either mature or fail and Giteau is a good footballer and a good thinker. He can handle it."
Lock Nathan Sharpe has been Gregan’s long-time deputy, but Ella questioned his captaincy claims.
"There are a number of concerns surrounding the Wallabies at present and the captaincy is at the forefront of them," he said.
"Sharpe has support as the heir apparent but I’m not that crazy about him, although that’s not to say he can’t be a good captain."
Other candidates including flanker Phil Waugh and 23-year-old centre Morgan Turinui possessed leadership qualities.
"I like Turinui. If he can cement his place in the side, I think he’s a definite option," former Wallabies lock Tim Gavin said.
"It won’t be easy to replace George but Morgan is an articulate guy who’s talkative on the field.
"Phil Waugh could be a very good captain. He leads by example and has the respect of his peers, but he has been on the bench recently."