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Tuqiri overlooked again for Wallabies

23/06/2009 05:58:49 PM Comments (0)

Winger Drew Mitchell has lived Lote Tuqiri's dream - and extended the NSW No.11's time in the wilderness - by fighting his way back into the Wallabies' Test side from a stint in club rugby.

Mitchell has been named to replace Peter Hynes in Saturday's Test against France, while Tuqiri's time out of international rugby will now extend to a fourth straight game.

Mitchell played against Tuqiri in Sydney club rugby last Saturday and outshone the 67-Test veteran in Randwick's 36-15 win over West Harbour, enough to earn a recall with Hynes to be rested after having his ear stitched during Australia's win over Italy.

Tuqiri's participation in the Tri-Nations series beginning next month must now be in serious doubt with a new Australian squad for that tournament to be named next week.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had a simple message for Tuqiri and fellow ex-NRL star Timana Tahu, who is the only other fit player in the current squad yet to play an international this winter.

"Keep going, just like any player whether you're selected or not selected, keep going," Deans said.

"The other guys are playing well.

"We've talked about some of the things we're working on, seeking to improve, and they're already good enough to be part of the squad, it's just a matter of keep working at those things so that when the opportunity comes they thrive and do well."

Mitchell, who with Lachie Turner and Hynes has been preferred to Tuqiri in 2009, said the shadow of the Waratahs No.11 was still playing on his mind.

"Yeah, definitely, he's an imposing figure and he's at training and he's working hard every session," Mitchell said.

"Although Lote hasn't had his opportunity at Test level so far this year, you wouldn't pick it by the way he's training.

"Certainly his attitude's up and he's training very well and at the same time he's also assisting us and testing us as well which is great.

"I played against Lote on the weekend and he's getting involved and he played really well."

Deans has reverted to his A-team for the clash with France, who are at close to full strength and have pushed the All Blacks all the way for a win and a narrow loss in two Tests in New Zealand.

Among nine changes to last weekend's experimental line-up, Adam Ashley-Cooper has been named at fullback with teenage star James O'Connor dropping to the bench, while Dean Mumm will be the blindside flanker and Ryan Cross has won a spot in the 22.

Tuqiri may have been overlooked again, but 77-Test veteran openside flanker Phil Waugh backs up for his second Test of the winter, on the bench with another openside flanker in David Pocock.

"(Ashley-Cooper's) playing really well, he's accustomed to this level and clearly the French will be another notch up," Deans said of his fullback selection.

"James (O'Connor) has made a great start ... he's played really well on both occasions.

"Sure he had a little aberration at the start of his game in terms of he coughed the ball up which was most unlike him, (but) he went on, he didn't dwell on that, he pushed on and played really well and made a significant contribution to our game."

O'Connor will now be expected to cover fullback and inside centre from the bench.

Team: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, Stirling Mortlock (capt), Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Richard Brown, George Smith, Dean Mumm, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill, Al Baxter, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, Phil Waugh, David Pocock, Josh Valentine, Ryan Cross, James O'Connor.

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