Will Skelton receives Wallabies call-up

Will Skelton will be a record-breaking Wallaby. Picture: ANTHONY JOHNSON
Will Skelton will be a record-breaking Wallaby. Picture: ANTHONY JOHNSON


Coach Ewen McKenzie admits the selection of super-sized lock Will Skelton for his Test debut on Saturday is more about breaking the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup stranglehold than intimidating the French.

At 2.03 metres tall and 140 kilograms, Skelton is believed to be the largest Wallaby in history - ARU officials were unable to name anyone bigger to have worn the gold jumper.

The New Zealand-born second-rower will bring obvious strength and power to the Wallabies pack but McKenzie says he picked Skelton for his brain, not brawn.

He replaces World Cup captain James Horwill as the Wallabies target a clean sweep of France in the final match of their three-Test series at Allianz Stadium.

But with bigger fish to fry than Les Bleus, McKenzie is hoping Skelton's vision and soft hands can provide the X-factor the Wallabies need to end the All Blacks' 12-year trans-Tasman dominance.

"Everyone talks about his size but I've been more impressed by the skill touches," McKenzie said.

"I've said for years now the thing that's defined the All Blacks is the forwards' contribution to passing in the game.

"You'll find that the All Blacks - their forwards might make up to 25 per cent of the passing in the game. Most other countries are around the 12 per cent mark.

"So having forwards who can create opportunities creates lots of diversity in the game.

"It's easy to crash the ball up. It's knowing when to do that and when to create opportunities for someone else. I've seen him do that a number of times this year and that's the thing that has impressed me the most.

"He's got a good instinct for the game. Anyone who's been watching the Waratahs all year will know what he's capable of doing.

"They're things that we want to see if we can incorporate into our game and get some value out of that."

Skelton's selection comes little more than a year after World Cup-winning All Blacks coach Graham Henry tried to coax the 22-year-old back to his country of birth.

But there was no budging the big unit.

"I've been here since I was 10 to 12 years - I consider Australia to be my home and I'll be privileged to wear the gold jersey," Skelton said.

"It's a special moment."

Skelton's inclusion for the Wallabies' last Test before tackling the All Blacks in Sydney on August 16 is one of two changes from Australia's starting XV that beat France 6-0 last Saturday.

Waratahs teammate Wycliff Palu returns at No 8 at Ben McCalman's expense after he missed the Test in Melbourne with a minor ankle injury.

There are two changes to the bench: Brumbies prop Scott Sio and Waratahs back Rob Horne get their first opportunities in the match-day squad . AAP


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