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Palu 'good to go' for Wallabies

By Adrian Warren 07/07/2009 07:18:48 PM Comments (0)

Human wrecking ball Wycliff Palu will be considered for Australia's opening rugby Tri-Nations clash with New Zealand in Auckland, but the Wallabies other powerhouse backrower Rocky Elsom must bide his time.

The Wallabies reassembled in Sydney on Tuesday with Palu in the thick of things after returning from a hand injury which kept him out of Australia's first four games of the season.

In one drill, the enthusiastic No.8 almost crashed into a static truck as he chased a moving tackle bag.

Flanker Elsom, who recently returned to Australia after a successful stint with Irish team Leinster, remained on the sidelines despite making progress in his recuperation from a bruised knee.

Australian coach Robbie Deans has used Richard Brown and George Smith in the Wallabies' early season games, but the powerful running and tackling 28-Test stalwart Palu would add even more power and grunt to the back row.

"He (Palu) has had two club games now," Deans told media at training on Tuesday.

"We will be considering Cliffy in our selection decisions, he is essentially good to go.

"He's excited about being back out there, he's been frustrated having to watch, so he comes back into the mix which is good."

Deans said there was no specific time frame for the return of Elsom who has also missed Australia's opening quartet of 2009 fixtures.

"Rocky is now active and is coping with that work so the signs are good," Deans said.

"Previously he was inactive and uncomfortable, now he's comfortable and active."

Deans said Australia got a lot out of their first month of the season but would need to improve to the standard of the recent Springboks-British Irish and Lions series.

"If we're going to go any good in this competition those are the sort of levels that we are going to have to get to," Deans said.

Captain and centre Stirling Mortlock predicted an especially physical encounter against the All Blacks in Auckland on July 18.

The veteran centre said the Tri-Nations seemed to go up a notch every year and expected that to happen again.

"This is a Tri-Nations campaign, everything goes up a notch and my anticipation is that first encounter in Auckland will be a very physical and brutal affair," Mortlock said.

He said he had been very happy with the way the Wallabies forwards had delivered quality ball for the backs in addition to their work rate around the pitch.

"If we can keep on making strides forward at set piece time and the cohesiveness of the backline is improving as well, our kicking game has been improving, things are looking good," Mortlock said.

Asked whether Australia could win the Tri-Nations for just the third time, a cautious Mortlock said: "We're upbeat about our prospects, but that's a long term goal."

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