SYDNEY, July 4, 2006 (AFP) – Australian coach John Connolly on Tuesday named an unchanged starting line-up to meet New Zealand this weekend but gave World Cup-winning winger Ben Tune the chance to resurrect his career from the bench.
Connolly showed faith in the team that overcame Ireland 37-15 in Perth, although he said it must improve against the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations opener in Christchurch on Saturday.
The coach was content just to tinker with his reserves bench, with centre Matt Giteau returning from knee surgery, while Tune and Scott Fava earned recalls because of injuries to Clyde Rathbone and Wycliff Palu.
Connolly, who has guided the resurgent Wallabies to wins over England and Ireland since becoming coach earlier this year, said the All Blacks represented his side’s toughest Test yet.
"Weve had three good wins and were 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 weve 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 theyve got class all over the field, so we know what to expect from them."
Tune, 29, returns to the Wallabies after four years in the wilderness, earning the last of his 46 Test caps against Argentina in 2002 before being sidelined for years with injuries.
The Queenslander, who scored a try on the wing in the Wallabies’ 1999 World Cup final victory over France, endured three knee reconstructions before making an impressive return in the centres for the Reds last year.
"He’s a great player and hes 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."
The Australian team departs for New Zealand on Wednesday.
The following is the line-up of the Australian rugby team for the opening Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand in Christchurch on Saturday:
Greg Holmes, Tai McIsaac, Guy Shepherdson, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Mark Chisholm, George Smith, Rocky Elsom, George Gregan (c), Stephen Larkham, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers, Stirling Mortlock, Mark Gerrard, Chris Latham.
Reserves: Jeremy Paul, Al Baxter, Scott Fava, Phil Waugh, Sam Cordingley, Ben Tune, Matt Giteau.