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Wallabies get a shot at first slam in 25 years

Australia has added a test against England to the start of its November tour to set up its first grand slam attempt in 25 years.

The Australian Rugby Union yesterday announced a November 7 test against England ahead of previously scheduled matches against Ireland (November 15), Scotland (November 21) and Wales (November 28).

Australia's last tour comprising tests against England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales was in 1984, when Mark Ella and Andrew Slack led the Wallabies to their only grand slam of wins against all the so-called Home Unions.

"The opportunity to go on a grand slam tour is massive," Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said. "It's been too long since Australia was last able to do one of these tours."

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the tour is one of the toughest challenges in international rugby.

"Last year's spring tour was a great experience for everyone involved, and this one will be even better. It will be a massive challenge, but one that we will be ready for."

England match

The ARU said negotiations to secure the England match on the 2009 tour hinged on the Wallabies inviting Fiji for a test in Australia next June.

England canceled a match against Fiji scheduled for November 28 at Twickenham. Instead, some of the estimated 7-million pound (US$11.5 million) profit from the England-Australia game will be funneled directly into Fijian rugby, which is in financial difficulty after the loss of its major sponsor.

The deal allows Fiji to continue with its planned tests against Ireland and Scotland and replace the England game with a test in the US.

"Moving around our autumn schedule is not ideal but to be able to offer Fiji substantive support we needed to find a multi-union approach," England's Rugby Football Union Chief Executive Francis Baron said.

ARU chief John O'Neill was pleased to get a grand slam tour back on the calendar.

"The long trips to the UK and Ireland to play all four Home Unions are an integral part of the rich history and tradition of the Wallabies."

New Zealand completed a grand slam of wins against the Home Unions last year.



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