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Palu included in Australia team

The giant No 8 says he is ready to tackle New Zealand despite the lack of game-time since recovering from injury.

DUBAI // The Australian coach Robbie Deans has signalled his intentions ahead of Saturday's opening Test against New Zealand by reshuffling his back row. With Australia's four-match unbeaten run on the line in the pivotal Auckland clash, Deans has recalled bulky No 8 Wycliff Palu. The Wallabies coach has dropped Dean Mumm for the bone-crunching away game, while Richard Brown switches to flanker to accommodate Palu's return. Historically, Auckland's Eden Park is an All Blacks fortress. The hosts have won their last 10 trans-Tasman Tests at the ground and haven't been defeated there since France's 23-20 win in 1994. It is a bullish run of 20 matches, including Australia's humiliating 39-10 defeat in last year's corresponding fixture. While that hiding is firmly entrenched in his mind, Deans is not looking at records and simply wants his players to give an honest account of their ability in their toughest Tri-Nations fixture. "We were simply not good enough last year and got found out in a big way," he said. "Returning to the same venue offers us an opportunity to see how much progress we have made as a group. "The relative consistency in our selection reflects that progress, but no one is getting ahead of themselves," Deans added. After breaking two bones in his hand during a Super 14 match earlier this year, a fully-recovered Palu is relishing his recall. "It's a big opportunity for me and a good game to come back to. I couldn't wish for anything more," he said. While claiming the Bledisloe Cup provides extra incentive to both teams, Saturday's game will also see openside flanker George Smith celebrate a landmark 100th Test match. "It's an outstanding achievement and hopefully we can do the occasion justice as a team," said Deans. A depleted New Zealand recently slipped to a 22-27 home defeat to France, but Deans cited the return of backrowers Richie McCaw and Rodney So'oialo as evidence the All Blacks won't be under strength. emegson@thenational.ae

"It's a big opportunity for me and it's a good game to come to back to against the All Blacks ? I couldn't wish for anything more," Palu said. "Definitely physically these All Blacks Tests are always pretty tough but the mental side's going to get us the edge and that's something I'm definitely ready for." Deans is equally confident Palu won't let the side down in the pivotal clash. "No we're not concerned but we'll just respond to how it unfolds on the day," he said when asked if Palu's lack of match fitness is a worry. "We've obviously got a lot of fresh, keen blokes on the bench as well who are more than able to step up should they be required."

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