Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Connolly revamps his side to face All Blacks

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia's Phil Waugh, left, makes a break upfield during their Tri Nations rugby union Test against South Africa in Sydney on Aug. 5.

PHOTO: AP

Australia coach John Connolly has dropped three players from his starting line-up as he attempts to revamp the Wallabies for Saturday's must-win Tri-Nations clash with New Zealand.

Australia face the formidable task of beating the All Blacks in New Zealand if they are to keep their Tri-Nations hopes alive and avoid the embarrassment of a 3-0 whitewash by their rivals in the Bledisloe Cup.

Connolly opted for a shake-up after this month's lackluster 20-18 win over South Africa in Sydney, recalling winger Clyde Rathbone, flanker Phil Waugh and hooker Jeremy Paul to the run-on side.

Waugh's inclusion at the expense of George Smith was the most contentious decision, with the dropped No. 7 ranked one of the world's best openside flankers.

Rathbone gets his first Test start for the year after impressing from the bench in Australia's previous outings, while 70-Test veteran Paul replaces the inexperienced Tai McIsaac.

George Gregan remains captain, despite a campaign for his removal from some of the Australian media.

Gregan's understudy Sam Cordingly was ruled out with injury, giving 26-year-old Brendan Sheehan the chance to earn his first Test cap if he is called on to replace the skipper from the bench.

"There were some very tough selection decisions, particularly in the back row, but we feel that Phil Waugh deserves his opportunity in the starting team," Connolly said.

"George Smith has been very good for us throughout the season and is one of the worlds best in his position, but we are very keen to see what Phil can bring to the mix," he said. "The wing was also very contentious and there has been nothing between the outside backs throughout the season."

Connolly believed his team was ready to challenge the All Blacks in Auckland after a fiercely contested 13-9 loss in Brisbane last month.

"We were very close but you need to take all of your opportunities against New Zealand, they give you very little," he said.

"Weve had a good preparation in Canberra but the fact remains that the All Blacks have won their last 20 Tests at home," Connolly said. "Its going to be a massive challenge for us and one which the players are looking forward to."

Wallabies run-on team:

Chris Latham, Clyde Rathbone, Stirling Mortlock, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri, Stephen Larkham, George Gregan (captain), Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh, Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Nathan Sharpe, Rodney Blake, Jeremy Paul, Greg Holmes.

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