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World Cup omission drives Dennis to greater heights

Ready to roll ... Dave Dennis with his Waratahs' player of the year award.

Ready to roll ... Dave Dennis with his Waratahs' player of the year award. Photo: Getty Images

DAVE DENNIS' agony at missing out on last year's World Cup squad has at last brought reward with selection to play the All Blacks for the first time in Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup opener at ANZ Stadium.

Dennis' promotion to the starting line-up as the blindside breakaway has been caused by the shoulder injury to Test No.8 Wycliff Palu forcing a back-row reshuffle. However Dennis' inclusion for only his second starting Test and fourth international cap is no surprise considering his exceptional form for the Waratahs this season.

Dennis was easily the Waratahs best player in a dreadful year, with the accolades coming last week when he won the province's best and fairest award. Clearly, the motivation was being overlooked for the Wallabies squad for last year's World Cup.

Dennis yesterday admitted that being a World Cup spectator was excruciating. ''That was tough, because you always think you're a chance and I didn't enjoy being overlooked that much. But at least missing out on the World Cup squad gave me the hunger to want to hang around for another four years,'' Dennis said yesterday.

''It's the ultimate for a player to be involved in a World Cup. For the next one I'll be 28-29 years old, so it's realistic for me.''

For the Waratahs this year, Dennis became one of their reliable workhorses, backing up and performing week in week out.

''Playing all 16 games for the Waratahs was a hard situation. It's not Test level, but it does put a strain on your body. With Rocky [Elsom] and a few other guys unavailable at the start of the year, it was what I had to do. So not having a game the last few weeks has been quite refreshing.

''I'm a proud New South Welshman, born and bred here. And each week I had that drive and the passion to play for my state, although we hadn't been winning games. It was the same with the other boys. But it was still a tough year. Hopefully next year is a bit better.

''Winning the Matt Burke Cup last week was special, but it was still a terrible year. The award was bitter sweet as it is a team sport, and I always think of it that way.''

Dennis understands disappointment after being forced to miss two seasons due to knee problems, before he was plucked from the Sydney University ranks to act as a back-up forward on the 2009 end-of-season Wallabies tour of Europe.

Dennis became a Test player in June when he started against Scotland, and then played off the bench against Wales. Wallabies coach Robbie Deans saw enough during that month to be convinced Dennis was ready to confront the world's No.1 team.

''Dave has been great. He showed during the June Tests he is an international player, and he's earned that right through good, consistent performances,'' Deans said yesterday.

It will also be the first time Dennis' back-row partner, Scott Higginbotham, will start against the All Blacks, and he is delighted to be at No.8. He revealed yesterday that midway during the Reds season, coach Ewen McKenzie asked him if he wanted to go back to breakaway. Higginbotham told the coach he preferred to stay at No.8.

''Things were working for me at No.8. I was getting around the corner a bit more in defence, which I wasn't doing as much when I was playing at No.6. I prefer to be in amongst it,'' Higginbotham said.

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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