Waugh in line for starting berth

Australia deputy flanker Phil Waugh is hoping to secure a berth in the starting line-up for the first time this year when the Wallabies face New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday. [more]

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Australia deputy flanker Phil Waugh is hoping to secure a berth in the starting line-up for the first time this year when the Wallabies face New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday.

George Smith has been named at openside flanker ahead of Waugh for all seven Wallabies Tests since the turn of the year, but with Smith struggling for form he might make way for the Waratahs vice-captain.

"It is a huge Test match, over in New Zealand in Auckland and playing for the Tri-Nations," Waugh said.

"So, it is a big game and I’d love to be starting."

Smith and Waugh played alongside each other for the majority of Wallabies matches between 2003 and 2005, but coach John Connolly has opted to install Rocky Elsom at blindside flanker for most of the 2006 season leaving Waugh and Smith to fight for one jersey.

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Smith initially won out due to his superior ability as a jumper in the line-out, but both he and the team struggled in the lacklustre 20-18 win over South Africa and Connolly admits it will be a tough decision when he picks the side to face the All Blacks.

"That’s going to be very competitive," Connolly said of the openside position.

But former All Blacks star Colin Meads believes that Smith should be exempt from any selection issues, instead casting doubt on the effectiveness of Elsom and number eight Wycliff Palu.

"If Smith is truly in their [the Australian selectors’] sights, they’re mad," Meads wrote in the New Zealand Herald.

"He’s the next best No.7 in the world behind Richie McCaw and was outstanding in the Super 14.

"The strength, speed and power of the man is what you’d want from every player. The problem is more than likely his support crew."

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