Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has announced his 34-man NSW Barbarians squad to Argentina to take on the Pumas in a two-match series as part of Argentina's preparations for The Rugby Championship.
The NSW Barbarians squad will depart for Argentina on July 29 and play two games against the Pumas on August 3 in Buenos Aires and August 9 in Salta , before returning on August 11.
Invited by the Argentinian Rugby Union to assist the Pumas' preparation for The Rugby Championship which kicks off on Saturday August 17, the squad will be made up of Waratahs players and invited players from the Sydney Premiership.
In keeping with Barbarians tradition, the players will wear NSW jerseys with their club socks.
As well providing valuable international experience, the tour is a huge opportunity for a number of emerging NSW prospects to secure one of the NSW Waratahs' five Extended Playing Squad contracts up for grabs for 2014.
"We are playing against the main Pumas squad and this will be their first preparation games leading into The Rugby Championship," said Cheika.
"The majority of the Waratahs players were involved in the Lions match and if we can get two more fixtures against international opposition, they will have played three matches against Test opposition. "
"For the guys who haven't played Test rugby before, the experience of playing international rugby in front of a big crowd, especially away from home, is too good to miss out on."
Although the tour clashes with rounds 16 and 17 of the Shute Shield competition (which take place on August 3 and 10), Cheika praised the support he had received from his club coaches.
"The club coaches have all been in to meet me and have been really positive about putting their players forward to participate in a tour against such a quality opposition, even though the Shute Shield is going on, which is a really good sign of the co-operation between the Waratahs and our clubs.
"The players have been selected from watching Shute Shield matches and quizzing club coaches about their own players and opposition players they have across."
With five places in his 2014 squad on the line, Cheika says the tour represents a massive opportunity for some of the state's best club players to put their hand up for a professional contract next season but added, "It doesn't mean that players not on the tour won't be considered. Some players have been left behind to ensure that there is a balance for the Shute Shield games taking place.
"For someone like Kerren Straker from Penrith, this is a great opportunity to play for a professional contract and, in an area where we want rugby to grow, it proves to everyone out there that there is an opportunity to go further."
Additionally, with two rounds of Shute Shield competition still to be played before the squad departs, further players may be called up in the event of injury.
For everyone involved, the tour will also be the first exposure to the IRB's new 'crouch, bind, set' scrum engagement law, which is being introduced for the first time in the southern hemisphere by SANZAR for The Rugby Championship and is aimed at enhancing player welfare and fan enjoyment.
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