Wallabies promote All Blacks reject Tahu - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallabies promote All Blacks reject Tahu

23/07/2008 05:25:21 PM Comments (0)

Red-hot Timana Tahu will make a much-hyped Wallabies debut against the All Blacks on Saturday night - less than 18 months after being rejected by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

While fellow rugby league convert Ryan Cross's selection as skipper Stirling Mortlock's outside centre replacement was widely forecast, the promotion of Tahu to the Wallabies' 22-man match-day squad captured most attention on both sides of the Tasman.

In blistering form for Australia A in recent weeks, Tahu's elevation came as no surprise.

But the 28-year-old's confession this month that the NZRU had snubbed him before he switched codes last season is expected to be another sticking point amongst All Blacks fans already disappointed about Graham Henry's reappointment as coach ahead of Robbie Deans.

It was certainly new Wallabies coach Deans and Tahu having the last laugh.

"It was early last year and I was going to go to the Crusaders and Robbie told me to go and check with (the) New Zealand Rugby (Union) but they didn't want me at the time. They weren't interested," Tahu recalled.

"The next thing was to try and find somewhere where I could play rugby and Australia - the ARU - and (NSW) Waratahs came up to the table and I'm happy `cos I'm here now playing for the Wallabies."

When he debuts at ANZ Stadium, Tahu will join Wallabies teammate Lote Tuqiri as a dual international, and become the fourth member of the Australian backline to have come from the NRL - along with Cross and his centre partner Berrick Barnes.

"It's come a bit quicker than I thought," admitted Tahu, who was limited to just three Super 14 starting appearances with the Waratahs due to a chronic hamstring injury.

"I was expecting to go back to local rugby after the Super 14 campaign, going back to the (West Harbour) Pirates, yeah.

"Just to make the Australian A side was a huge honour. To make the Wallabies 22, I'm very excited and I can't wait for Saturday night.

"Everyone hates each other at this time of year, but it's a big game and I like big games."

After being used on the wing and at outside centre for the Waratahs, Tahu proved a revelation at inside centre for Australia A.

Deans, though, said the former NSW State of Origin and Australian Test utility "could end up anywhere, depending on how things unfold" against the All Blacks.

Dan Vickerman will also be used as an impact player off the bench as he continues his comeback from the ankle surgery which kept Australia's lineout ace out of the first four Tests of the year.

Vickerman replaces Hugh McMeniman on the bench after Deans opted against splitting up the Nathan Sharpe-James Horwill second-row pairing which proved so effective in the Wallabies' 16-9 Tri-Nations win over the world champion South Africans in Perth last Saturday night.

"Sharpey and James Horwill last week were very good, so we've got combinations going there," Deans said.

"Dan will get his opportunity off the bench. He's done very well to be in this situation. He's ahead of the anticipated return time.

"It's great to have that depth. Hugh has certainly done nothing wrong."

Flanker George Smith takes over the captaincy in Mortlock's absence due to the head knock suffered against the Springboks.

The All Blacks will also be missing their captain, with champion flanker Richie McCaw ruled unfit to make his comeback from an ankle injury.

Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Hynes, Ryan Cross, Berrick Barnes, Lote Tuqiri, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, George Smith (capt), Rocky Elsom, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill, Al Baxter, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Matt Dunning, Dan Vickerman, Phil Waugh, Sam Cordingley, Timana Tahu, Drew Mitchell.

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