'Rodzilla' returns for crucial game

Photosport     27 Jul 2006     Photosport

Blake will play his third Test for the Wallabies and first in his home town of Brisbane, while Coach John Connolly has named a nine-man bench to be reduced to seven after the team’s final training run on Friday.

Blake’s inclusion at tighthead prop is the only change to the Australian starting fifteen that produced a record 49-0 victory over South Africa at Suncorp Stadium a fortnight ago.

The Wallabies and All Blacks will play in Brisbane for the first time in ten years, at a ground where Australia extended its unbeaten record to six matches with its crushing defeat of the Springboks.

Saturday's test is a must-win affair for the Wallabies, who require a victory to force a decider in Auckland next month and keep alive their hopes of regaining the Bledisloe Cup.

The night will also be a significant one for Wallabies Captain George Gregan, who will reach yet another career milestone.

Gregan will equal John Eales’ record of 55 Tests as Captain of the Wallabies in his 124th overall Test appearance.

Wallaby Vice Captain Dan Vickerman has overcome a shoulder injury and has been named alongside Nathan Sharpe at lock.

Hooker Tai McIsaac returns to the lineup on the bench after missing the victory over the Springboks with a rib cartilage injury suffered during the Wallabies’ opening Bledisloe Cup defeat in Christchurch.

Qantas Wallabies Coach John Connolly underlined the importance of Saturday night’s second Bledisloe Cup clash.

“Matches between Australia and New Zealand are always a very special occasion,” said Connolly.

“With a sellout crowd in Brisbane it will be a huge night for Australian Rugby and we are hoping to play our part and produce a victory over New Zealand,” he added.

Connolly said that his team wasn’t thinking beyond this weekend’s Test.

“We’ve concentrated very much on our game this week and haven’t given too much thought to what a (win) could mean for us,” he said.

“We were happy with the way we played against South Africa but it’s important that we continue to improve and New Zealand pose a very big challenge for us.

“They have incredible depth and had a convincing win over us in Christchurch followed by another impressive performance against South Africa.

There’s no doubt they are the benchmark in world rugby at the present time.”