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Connolly to unearth 120kg flanker for Springboks clash in Sydney

NZPA     02 Aug 2006    

The Wallabies must win Saturday night's Test at Telstra Stadium to stay in the race for the Tri Nations trophy, while victory for Australia will see them clinch the Mandela Plate.

Giant Waratahs flanker Wycliff Palu will make his first run-on appearance for the Wallabies after being named in the Number 8 jersey for Australia’s fourth Philips Tri Nations match this year.

Palu, a 194cm, 120kg back-rower was a standout forward in two victories by Australia A over Fiji last month.

He returns to the National team after making his Test debut from the reserves bench against England at Telstra Dome in June.

Connolly has also re-called Tai McIsaac to his starting fifteen after the Western Force hooker made his return from a rib injury for last week’s 13-9 Bledisloe Cup loss to New Zealand.

Skipper George Gregan will play his 56th Test as Captain, surpassing John Eales’ record of 55 Tests as Wallabies Captain between 1996 and 2001.

Flanker Phil Waugh will also celebrate a career milestone on Saturday night.

Waugh is set to make his 50th Test appearance for the Wallabies, having played each Test of the 2006.

By taking the field this Saturday night, the 26-year-old Waratahs flanker will become just the sixth member of the current Wallabies squad to have attained 50 Test caps.

Wallabies Coach John Connolly said he is continuing to search for his ideal back row combination.

“There are a couple of positions that we haven’t settled on and the back row is an area we are looking very closely at,” said Connolly.

Connolly said that Palu will provide the Wallaby pack with added size and ball-running ability.

“(Palu) is a huge man and he gives us another strong ball-carrying option,” he said.

“He’s still developing a number of aspects of his game but has a lot of potential. He’s an important part of our philosophy of expanding our base in the lead up to the World Cup.”

Connolly said that the Wallabies remained focused on the Philips Tri Nations despite surrendering the Bledisloe Cup to New Zealand in Brisbane last weekend.

“There’s still a possibility if results go our way that we can win the Tri Nations,” said Connolly.

“The match against New Zealand took a lot out of the players both physically and mentally, so it’s a big challenge for them to get up for a Test against South Africa with such a short turnaround,” he said.