Fit again … Wycliff Palu runs the ball during a Waratahs training session yesterday at Victoria Barracks after his big Wallabies showing at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images
WYCLIFF PALU is on a roll and doing everything he can to stay on it.
Four days after making a commanding return to Test rugby with 46 gruelling minutes against the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, the Wallabies No.8 was back training with the Waratahs in Sydney yesterday.
Not content to take the 10 days rest on offer to all Wallabies joining the end of year tour next weekend, Palu joined teammates Dave Dennis and Paddy Ryan in a skills and conditioning session with their home province at Victoria Barracks.
The menacing No.8, who made a crucial difference to Australia's attack with his ball carries and physical dominance at the weekend, is clearly keen to maintain and improve the fitness levels he displayed in his first Wallabies game since June. Palu missed the entire Rugby Championship after injuring his shoulder during the Waratahs' penultimate Super Rugby match in mid-July. It was a frustrating end to an otherwise positive season that had resulted in the Tongan-born forward deciding to stick with NSW - and Australia - instead of taking up an offer in Japan.
Palu's faith in his body and in the Waratahs' strength and conditioning staff was rewarded with selection to start against the All Blacks and his subsequent imposing performance. But considering the ups and downs of the past year, it was no surprise to see him back training this week.
Berrick Barnes has also spent the past week training with the Waratahs under new coach Michael Cheika as he recovers from a punctured lung sustained in the Wallabies' loss to the Springboks in Pretoria last month. He looked comfortable and supremely fit during the session, which is good news for the Wallabies, who name their 30-man touring squad in Sydney today. Barnes's expected return will give coach Robbie Deans some breathing space in the back line.
The loss of winger Dom Shipperley and an injury to his Reds teammate Digby Ioane put considerable pressure on the squad's wing stocks. But Barnes's addition and the continued adaptability of Adam Ashley-Cooper, plus Mike Harris's excellent recent performances, gives selectors options should they need to make changes at fullback, wing or in the midfield.
Former captain David Pocock is also expected to be named in the touring side that takes on France on November 10, followed by England, Italy and Wales. Although he remains subject to monitoring, Nathan Sharpe will retain the captaincy.
Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will be joined by Stephen Moore and rookie James Hanson, who made his debut against the All Blacks in place of Reds teammate Saia Faingaa.
Ben Alexander is expected to return to give Deans five props from which to choose when the Wallabies take on the big northern hemisphere teams. Alexander, still subject to injury clearance, would join Sekope Kepu and Benn Robinson, with James Slipper and Paddy Ryan travelling as back up.
Deans will have spent time running permutations on his loose forwards this week after Scott Higginbotham's two-Test suspension ruled him out of the France and England Tests. Palu and Radike Samo could cover his loss at No.8, while Dave Dennis and Sitaleki Timani can play at blindside as well as in the second row.
The Wallabies leave for France on November 3.