Rugby World Cup: Eales slips neatly into Wallaby side

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THE AUSTRALIAN captain, John Eales, who has not played a Test this year, was recalled yesterday when the starting line-up for the Wallabies' World Cup opener against Romania on Sunday was announced.

The giant lock, a veteran of two World Cup campaigns, has been out of action with a shoulder injury since a training accident in February, and the team have missed his inspirational leadership. Despite a low-key comeback, the 29-year-old Queenslander was named captain when the coach, Rod MacQueen, named the Australian team for the Group E game in Belfast. Mark Connors returns to the bench in the only change to the Wallabies line-up who beat New Zealand 28-7 in Sydney last month.

Jason Little retains his wing position, in preference to Joe Roff, and Rod Kafer earns his second cap at outside-half. Both players earned call- ups after Australia's 10-9 defeat in the Tri-Nations to South Africa in August and helped inspire the win over the All Blacks.

Tiaan Strauss, who was controversially omitted from South Africa's World Cup squad just a month before the Springboks became world champions in 1995, makes his World Cup debut on the substitutes' bench for Australia.

The 33-year-old forward, who left South Africa for a stint in the Australia's Super League before returning to rugby union with New South Wales, made his debut for the Wallabies against Ireland at Ballymore in June.

"What happened to me in South Africa was very disappointing," said Strauss. "You look forward to a World Cup as the highlight of your career, and then I was dumped cold for personal reasons. I never thought I'd be back for another World Cup but here I am, and I'm very keen to make the most of my chances for Australia."

He has already played twice against the Springboks in the Tri-Nations this year, for one win and a loss, but still says he has a point to prove when he meets with his former teammates. Australia, the tournament's second favourite behind New Zealand, could meet South Africa in the later stages.

Olivier Brouzet looks set to miss France's World Cup opener against Canada in Beziers on Saturday. The 6ft 8in lock damaged muscles at the bottom of his spine in training on Monday.

South Africa are involved in a race against time to get their secret weapon through customs. The Springboks entered the country without their "Green Mamba" scrum machine which will not be allowed through until Thursday. The Springboks' assistant coach, Heyneke Meyer, said: "It is currently held up at customs and we have been forced to use a smaller machine for scrummaging practice."

AUSTRALIA (v Romania, Belfast, Oct 3): M Burke; B Tune, D Herbert, T Horan, J Little; R Kafer, G Gregan; R Harry, P Kearns, A Blades, D Giffin, J Eales (capt), M Cockbain, D Wilson, T Kefu. Replacements: J Roff, N Grey, C Whitaker, T Strauss, O Finegan, P Noriega, J Paul.