Cooper returns to flyhalf as Wallabies ready for Springboks

The Canadian Press
9/4/2013 1:31:03 AM
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BRISBANE, Australia -- Desperate to reverse a run of losses, Australia has restored some x-factor at flyhalf and put extra emphasis on their biggest attacking weapon by recalling Quade Cooper at 10 and moving Israel Folau from wing to fullback for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against South Africa.

Ex-rugby league international and Australian Rules football convert Folau played all of his five tests on the wing but new -- and so-far winless -- Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has switched him to fullback to make the most of his aerial skills and his attacking potential.

The recall of Cooper, who fell out of favour under former Australia coach Robbie Deans and has not played a test match in almost a year, and Folau's positional move are two of four changes to the starting lineup announced Wednesday.

The No. 2-ranked South Africa made three personnel changes and two positional switches to the lineup which scraped to a 22-17 comeback win over Argentina at Mendoza in its last start. The Springboks have never beaten Australia at Suncorp Stadium, venue for Saturday's test.

Bismarck du Plessis takes over at hooker and as vice-captain from Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe was elevated to the starting lineup in place of lock Juandre Kruger and Zane Kirchner returns at fullback, forcing Willie le Roux to shift to the wing.

"A few of these changes are purely rotational in order to give guys with fresh legs a go, while others are simply a case of horses for courses," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said.

For Australia, Sekope Kepu moved off the bench to replace Ben Alexander at tighthead and Nick Cummins was named to start on the wing. Matt Toomua and Jesse Mogg, who started at 10 and 15 in the opening two Rugby Championship losses to New Zealand, were dropped to the bench.

Australia is "really deferring to tactically how we want to go about it and putting guys in positions we think they can give us some really good value," McKenzie said.

"We've won one test in the last five, so we're going to keep exploring around the edges."

McKenzie, who replaced Deans after the 2-1 series loss to the British and Irish Lions in July, said Australia must use its strengths of speed and versatility against a South Africa attack based around size and a 10-man style.

"If we can create space, that'll be part of it, but then (Folau) will create his own opportunities as he's done all year," he said. "If you've got guys like Quade inside who's got not just vision, but multiple-phase vision about where opportunities will be, that relationship will develop as the game goes on."

McKenzie almost dared the South Africans to kick often to Folau.

"They kick, he gets his hands on the ball, that's good," McKenzie said. "Maybe they won't kick as much."

The clash of styles was inevitable, and something Meyer was preparing his Springboks for.

"You look at this (Australian) team and it's a really full-on attack team," he said. "They know we have travelled so they will really try to run our forwards flat and tired.

"Without talking them up too much, this is probably one of the best backlines we have faced, and not just this year."



Australia: Israel Folau, Nick Cummins, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali'ifano, James O'Connor, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben Mowan, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Reserves: Saia Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Ben Alexander, Kane Douglas, Jake Schatz, Nic White, Matt Toomua, Jesse Mogg.

South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Flip van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Juandre Kruger, Siya Kolisi, Jano Vermaak, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Quade Cooper (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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