Injury-cursed No.8 Wycliff Palu is in contention to make a rare appearance for the Wallabies in next weekend's final Bledisloe Cup test against the All Blacks while experienced prop Sekope Kepu and wing Drew Mitchell also make timely comebacks from long-term lay-offs.
The trio was today included in a 30-man squad for Saturday's clash at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium and provide head coach Robbie Deans with some respite after a crippling injury toll impacted on Australia's failure to retain the trans-Tasman silverware or challenge for the inaugural Rugby Championship.
Palu, a damaging ball carrier when fit, last played for the Wallabies at last year's World Cup and those two tests against Ireland and the United States were his first since the 2009 Grand Slam tour of the UK and Ireland.
A pinched shoulder nerve sidelined the 30-year-old from this year's international programme until now, the latest in a frustrating sequence of injuries that has robbed the Wallabies of a physical presence in a loose forward trio already missing openside flanker and captain David Pocock.
Kepu and Mitchell both featured earlier in the year before being invalided out of the Rugby Championship with knee and ankle issues respectively.
The tighthead broke down at training after the first Bledisloe Cup test at Sydney on August 18, ruling him out of the remainder of the tournament while Mitchell's comeback from a serious leg injury was short-lived when he limped off Eden Park a week later before the All Blacks retained the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy.
Like his Waratahs teammate Palu, Mitchell has spent most of the last two years in rehabilitation and if he makes the final 22-man squad the Bledisloe dead rubber will only be his fifth test in two years.
In another boost for Deans as he tries to prevent the All Blacks equalling the 17-test world record for consecutive wins by a top tier nation, utility back Adam Ashley Cooper has recovered from a concussion suffered against the Springboks in Pretoria - a blow which ruled him out of last weekend's victory over Los Pumas in Rosario.
The All Blacks current winning sequence started after the Wallabies won 25-20 at Suncorp Stadium last year, a victory that enabled the Wallabies to claim the final Tri-Nations crown.
Wallabies squad: Mike Harris (Queensland Reds), Nick Cummins (Western Force), Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs), Dominic Shipperley (Queensland Reds), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds), Anthony Fainga'a (Queensland Reds), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels), Brett Sheehan (Western Force), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs), Radike Samo (Queensland Reds), Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds), Michael Hooper (Brumbies), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force, captain), Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs), Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs), Paddy Ryan (NSW Waratahs), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), James Hanson (Queensland Reds), Saia Fainga'a (Queensland Reds), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs).
- Fairfax Media
Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?