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June 24, 2017

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Luke Burgess returns to Wallabies in time for opener with All Blacks

SYDNEY -- Scrumhalf Luke Burgess and lock Dan Vickerman have returned to Australia's rugby squad for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener against New Zealand while 95-test veteran Nathan Sharpe has been left out.

Burgess was named Tuesday in the 24-man squad after recovering from a fractured hand, while Vickerman, winger Lachie Turner and lock Sitaleki Timani were also included.

However lock Sharpe and center Matt Giteau would have reason to be worried about their chances of figuring in next month's World Cup after being overlooked by coach Robbie Deans for Saturday's game, important as both a Bledisloe Cup contest but also as a World Cup preparatory game.

Australia opened its international season with an upset loss to Samoa in Sydney before rebounding to beat a below-strength South Africa squad 39-20 the following weekend in the opening match of the Tri-Nations tournament.

New Zealand thrashed South Africa 40-7 last weekend and is set to be close to full strength for Saturday's match at Eden Park, where the All Blacks have not lost a test in 17 years..

Burgess returns after proving his fitness following rehabilitation for his injured hand, which he broke during training in June ahead of the NSW Waratahs' Super 15 semifinal against the Auckland Blues.

Turner is included after impressive performances with Sydney club Eastwood, while Vickerman also featured strongly for Sydney University last weekend.

Vickerman, a 56-test veteran, returned to the Wallabies for the first time since 2008 in the loss to Samoa after spending three years at Cambridge University.

Timani made his international debut against Samoa after some impressive performances in the Super 15 for the Waratahs.

Richard Graham, Sharpe's coach at Super Rugby side Western Force, said he is confident his 33-year-old captain will still figure in World Cup squad selection.

"In a very intense tournament over six or eight weeks, he'll be invaluable," Graham said. "Come World Cup time, I'd expect him to be in that squad of 30, but right now having not spoken to him, it's really hard to speculate on the reasons why he's not in the side."

The Wallabies squad will fly to Auckland on Wednesday and heads to South Africa after the Auckland match, with the squad for the match against the Springboks at Durban on Aug. 13 extended to 26 players.

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