Connolly names unchanged starting team
July 4, 2006

Wallabies coach John Connolly has selected an unchanged starting 15 for Saturday night's opening Test of the Tri Nations and the first of three Bledisloe Cup matches against New Zealand.

While the starting team from the Wallabies' commanding 37-15 victory over Ireland in Perth two weeks ago has been retained, Connolly has made three changes to his reserves bench.

Reserve back Clyde Rathbone has been forced out due to a hamstring injury, giving 46-Test veteran Ben Tune an opportunity to resurrect his Wallabies career after a Test rugby hiatus of almost four years.

Tune last played for Australia on the 2002 tour of Argentina, before missing almost two full seasons through injury.

"He (Tune) is a great player and he's worked extremely hard to earn this opportunity to play Test football again," said Connolly.

"He will do a fine job for us on Saturday night when he gets his opportunity from the bench," he said.

Tune will be joined on the bench by Matt Giteau, who earns his first selection in the 22 for the season after recovering from knee surgery.

Western Force Number 8 Scott Fava will also make his first appearance of the season after reserve forward Wycliff Palu was ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained during a training session at Coffs Harbour over the weekend.

Connolly said his Australian team had plenty of improvement in it after an unbeaten start to their 2006 Bundaberg Rum Rugby Series campaign.

"We've had three good wins and we're happy with our progress so far, but there is still a lot of improvement in this team," he said.

"Playing against New Zealand is a massive step up from what we've had so far and we certainly acknowledge that we are going to have to lift another gear for them this Saturday night."

"(New Zealand) are the best team in the world and they've got class all over the field, so we know what to expect from them," said Connolly.

The 24-man Qantas Wallabies touring party will depart Sydney for Christchurch tomorrow morning.

A 22-man Australia 'A' squad has also been named for matches against Fiji in Adelaide and Melbourne this month.

The squad is as follows (in alphabetical order):

Australia A squad

Adam Ashley-Cooper, Richard Brown, Al Campbell, Mitchell Chapman, David Croft, Matt Dunning, Gene Fairbanks, Nic Henderson, Josh Holmes, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore, Sam Norton-Knight, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, John Roe, Cameron Shepherd, Scott Staniforth, Morgan Turinui, Josh Valentine, Adam Wallace-Harrison.

Wallabies:


Greg Holmes
Tai McIsaac
Guy Shepherdson
Nathan Sharpe
Dan Vickerman (vc)
Mark Chisholm
George Smith
Rocky Elsom
George Gregan (c)
Stephen Larkham
Lote Tuqiri
Mat Rogers
Stirling Mortlock (vc)
Mark Gerrard
Chris Latham


Jeremy Paul
Al Baxter
Scott Fava
Phil Waugh
Sam Cordingley
Matt Giteau
Ben Tune

Touring reserves: John Roe (23rd man), Scott Staniforth

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