Rugby Championship News

Tahu named in Australian squad for TriNations

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Former rugby league international centre Timana Tahu was named Monday in a 30-man Australian squad for the Tri-Nations rugby tournament against New Zealand and South Africa.

Tahu, 27, who is in his first season of rugby since switching from Australia’s National Rugby League, scored two tries in Australia A’s 21-18 loss to New Zealand Maori in the Pacific Nations Cup here on Sunday.

Tahu and the return of last year’s World Cup team members — lock Dan Vickerman, winger Drew Mitchell and backrower Hugh McMeniman — featured in the squad of 17 forwards and 13 backs.

The Wallabies kick off their Tri-Nations campaign against World Cup champions South Africa in Perth on July 19, followed a week later with a Sydney match against the All Blacks.

Tahu makes the step up after impressing for Australia A following an injury-plagued start to his rugby career with the NSW Waratahs.

“We’ve been watching Timana closely, and believe the time is right to introduce him to this level,” coach Robbie Deans said.

“He has made good progress after a frustrating start to the year.

While he is still learning the game, it is clear he has the ability to make an impact on a game, and will only get better as he gains more experience.”
 
A State of Origin representative with New South Wales in rugby league, Tahu scored 102 tries from 159 NRL games before switching to rugby.

The Australians are rebuilding under Deans from last year’s quarter-final exit to England at the World Cup and have beaten Ireland and France twice in three internationals this season under the New Zealander.

The four inclusions have forced winger Digby Ioane, lock Mark Chisholm, backrower Stephen Hoiles and fullback Cameron Shepherd out of the squad for the Irish and French Tests.

Shepherd is facing the possibility of missing the rest of the season after breaking his ankle in last Saturday’s record 40-10 victory over France in Brisbane.

Deans said Mitchell, Vickerman and McMeniman had all been unavailable for the original selection due to injury.

“That presented us with an opportunity to give other players, some of them quite young, an opportunity within our group, and were not disappointed with their contribution,” Deans said.

“All of the players who have missed out today have more to contribute at this level. It’s just a reality that our selection pool has grown.

“The quality of some of the blokes that we have coming into the squad, which has been proven previously at Test level, can’t be denied.”
 
The 52-capped Vickerman hasn’t played since the Super 14 final at the end of May, but is making good progress and is likely to play at least one club match prior to being considered for a resumption of international duties.

This year Australia has two home matches in the Tri-Nations against the All Blacks during the Tri-Nations, and one in Auckland, while this month’s home tie against the Springboks is followed later by back-to-back away matches in the Republic at the end of August.

Australia –

Forwards: Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Alistair Baxter (Waratahs), Richard Brown (Western Force), Matt Dunning (Waratahs), Rocky Elsom (Waratahs), Adam Freier (Waratahs), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Hugh McMeniman (Reds), Dean Mumm (Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Reds), Wycliff Palu (Waratahs), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs), Benn Robinson (Waratahs), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), George Smith (Brumbies), Dan Vickerman (Waratahs), Phil Waugh (Waratahs).

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), Berrick Barnes (Reds), Luke Burgess (Waratahs), Sam Cordingley (Reds), Ryan Cross (Western Force), Matt Giteau (Western Force), Peter Hynes (Reds), Drew Mitchell (Western Force), Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies), Brett Sheehan (Waratahs), Timana Tahu (Waratahs), Lote Tuqiri (Waratahs), Lachie Turner (Waratahs).

Sapa-AFP – TriNationsweb.com

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