Deans hands Tahu a Wallabies lifeline - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Deans hands Tahu a Wallabies lifeline

By Darren Walton 05/11/2008 06:37:56 PM Comments (0)

Timana Tahu has the chance to resurrect his international rugby career on Saturday after earning a surprise recall in the centres for the Wallabies' European tour-opening Test against Italy.

The rugby league convert will be reunited with skipper Stirling Mortlock in the midfield in Padova after proving to coach Robbie Deans he's picked up his defensive act following a nightmare starting debut against South Africa during the Tri Nations series.

Looking all at sea as the world champion Springboks piled on eight tries at Ellis Park, Tahu bore the brunt of the record-breaking 53-8 defeat at Ellis Park and was dropped altogether from the 22-man Wallabies squad for the ensuing Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Brisbane.

"I think everyone knows that during that South African game my defence wasn't up to scratch," Tahu said.

"It's just more communication on set plays and it's something I've worked on - reading their attack - and I think I now have it down pat and am 100 per cent confident going out there."

At the behest of Deans - one of the 28-year-old's greatest admirers - Tahu has spent the 10 weeks poring over DVDs of rival teams' attacking plays in order to get his defence in order.

The dual international will again line up at inside centre - with Mortlock reverting to outside centre and Ryan Cross rested - and fully expected the Azzurri to target him "if they see the last clip I played in".

"But it's probably something not worth watching now as I feel like I'm a different player as a defender," Tahu said.

"I feel a lot smarter and I'm looking forward to the game."

That wasn't always the case, though, with Tahu revealing that, after his Johannesburg ordeal, he wondered whether he'd made the right decision to leave NRL club Parramatta - and a certain place in the NSW State of Origin and Kangaroos Test sides - to switch codes this year.

"It was a massive blow. I doubted myself and was thinking 'am I good enough?" he said.

"It reminded me of when I first played league for Newcastle (in 1999). My first three games against Souths, Wests Tigers and Cronulla were probably the worst three in my whole life and I doubted myself back then.

"But I think as an older player, you learn from it. You live it and you've got to move on. And I've moved on."

In his own words, 2008 has been a "rollercoaster" rookie season for Tahu, who missed most of the NSW Waratahs' Super 14 campaign with a hamstring injury but bounced back to be Australia A's player of the tournament during the Pacific Nations competition.

"Then South Africa I hit another low," Tahu said.

"But Robbie had a talk to me and I'm over that now that I realise it was probably more inexperience."

Deans is an unabashed Tahu fan, having tried to lure the classy threequarter across to the Crusaders two years ago only for the New Zealand Rugby Union to thwart the move.

"His confidence is coming back already just through the work he's been doing at training," Deans said.

"He's one of those blokes we'd like to give the opportunity to press on."

Tahu is not the only player to have won a recall to the Wallabies starting side, with Deans confirming that Berrick Barnes would be given a shot at five-eighth against Italy, the lowest-ranked of the four teams Australia will face in consecutive Tests this month.

While Deans will not officially name his side until Thursday, wingers Lachie Turner and Digby Ioane are also expected to get a run.

And Phil Waugh, Hugh McMeniman, who has recovered from an ankle injury, and Matt Dunning could be inclusions in the pack after missing a start in last Saturday's 19-14 loss to the All Blacks in Hong Kong.

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