Australia v France, 1st Test
Wycliff Palu feared Wallabies form-related sack
June 4, 2014
Wycliff Palu fered he had not done enough with New South Wales Waratahs © Getty Images

Wycliff Palu feared he would miss Australia's opening Test against France at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, believing Ben McCalman or Scott Higginbotham were in better form.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has been ruthless in his form-based selections - dumping stalwart prop Benn Robinson from his 32-man squad, axing Will Genia from the team, and benching former skipper James Horwill - and Palu, who will play his 50th Test on Saturday, was particularly worried when he missed a call from McKenzie before the initial squad was announced.

"I was pretty nervous really," Palu said. "In the past it was no news is good news and if you got a call it means you've missed out and I thought 'far out'. He gave me a call because I've never been in the squad since he's been coach of the Wallabies. It was a nice surprise."

Palu, stranded on 49 caps since the series loss to the British & Irish Lions last year, thought McCalman or Higginbotham would start because they "have been killing it for their teams". But McKenzie, who recruited Palu from St George-Illawarra in the NRL in 2004, when New South Wales coach, said the Waratahs back-rower had the physicality and influence required against a powerful France pack.

"With the competition, whatever they go they would get a good No.8 so that's why I was a bit nervous," Palu said.

Palu is one of two Wallabies forwards to receive their 50th cap against France but, in contrast, it's been much smoother sailing for James Slipper.

The Queensland Reds loose-head prop has missed only a handful of games since making his Test debut a week after his 21st birthday in 2010, making him the youngest Wallabies player since George Smith to hit the mark. Slipper turns 25 on Friday, while Smith was 24 years and 11 months when he played his 50th in 2005.

"At 25 most Test props are just making their debuts so I've been pretty fortunate," Slipper said.

Australia: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins; Bernard Foley, Nic White; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy; Sam Carter, Rob Simmons; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), James Slipper. Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan, Paddy Ryan, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe.


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