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Tahu picked in Tri Nations squad

07/07/2008 05:25:00 PM Comments (0)

Robbie Deans says Timana Tahu's unique ability to "traumatise" opponents made his elevation into the Wallabies fold a selection no-brainer.

Barely six months after the New Zealand Rugby Union rejected the former rugby league international's bid to become an All Black, Tahu was named in Australia's 30-man squad for this year's Tri-Nations tournament.

In the words of NSW Waratahs teammate Lote Tuqiri, Tahu has been "killing them" for Australia A, bagging a tryscoring double in another menacing display in Sunday's 21-18 loss to the New Zealand Maori.

With Berrick Barnes under a fitness cloud after injuring his shoulder in Saturday night's 40-10 rout of France, coach Deans admits Tahu has zoomed into contention for a Wallabies debut against the world champion South Africans in Perth on Saturday week.

Despite having battled a chronic hamstring injury and started just eight competitive games of rugby since switching codes, Tahu had Deans raving about the 27-year-old's potential.

"He's a very powerful, able carrier of the ball, so he has great ability to not only traumatise his opponent but also to beat him," Deans said.

"He also has an ability to link. And to do that, you've got to have an awareness of what's around you.

"So there's real scope there for us to add to that.

"He's got a distinct skill set from the likes of Barnesy, which gives us options and gives us choice within a game.

"But he's also a work in progress, as he is the first bloke to concede.

"He's obviously been a talent from way back but he's spent a significant amount of time on the ground now and he's comfortable in the game.

"He's got his body into good shape and we believe he offers us something that's unique and really valuable.

"Every time he gets out on the ground, he shows qualities that are pretty special."

Asked if he was a chance to start at inside centre against the Springboks should Barnes not recover in time, Deans said: "It's obviously a possibility now, where it wasn't yesterday".

"He's in the 30 so, as such, he starts a Wallaby career.

"When he hits the ground, who knows. You don't know what's ahead, but he will at some point and he offers us a lot."

Tahu was chuffed to have received his call-up while "at home having a few beers with the missus, just enjoying the end of a five-week campaign with the Australia A side and thinking about where I was going to go for holidays".

"Robbie rang me up and killed those plans. Going to Perth now, I'm looking forward to it," he said.

"I wasn't expecting it to be this year after the Super 14 campaign. I didn't play much footy and I was just happy to make the Australia A side.

"I thought I was going back to local league (club rugby for West Harbour) after the Super 14, so I had no high hopes of making rep football."

Yet Tahu could so easily have been playing against the Wallabies this year.

The Melbourne-born son of a Maori father and Aboriginal mother, Tahu rang Deans late last year seeking a gig at the Crusaders.

"He communicated an interest in playing union and, in particular, playing for the Crusaders," Deans said.

"So we've actually had phone conversation previously but fortunately New Zealand didn't respond to that expression of interest, which he's obviously pleased about and so am I.

"It was at the point of him contemplating a shift and he obviously had his toe in the water.

"Obviously I saw huge potential in the individual but, as an organisation, the Crusaders were never in a position to be able to achieve that sort of end.

"Obviously to have achieved that would have revolved around a response from New Zealand.

"But, I mean, we weren't chasing him either. We had a stable of players that we're pretty happy with.

"But you never ... when a gift horse looks you (in the mouth), you've got to consider. It wasn't to be."

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