Wallabies make three changes for France clash
November 8, 2012
Prop Sekope Kepu returns to the Wallabies' line-up for this weekend's clash with France © Getty Images
Australia have tweaked their line-up for the clash with France at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.
Coach Robbie Deans has made three changes to the side that claimed a draw with New Zealand last month with all of them coming up front. Tight-head prop Sekope Kepu, blindside flanker Dave Dennis and lock Kane Douglas have all been handed starting berths.
Kepu has edged out James Slipper for the No.3 shirt, Douglas will pack down in the second row in the place of the injured Sitaleki Timani and Dennis steps in for the suspended Scott Higginbotham. Nick Cummins, Ben Tapuai and Mike Harris are all retained after strong performances in the Wallabies' last outing in Brisbane.
Further changes come on the bench where hooker Stephen Moore is poised to make his comeback from injury and if he does he will succeed Jeremy Paul as the Wallabies' most-capped hooker. Elsewhere, Berrick Barnes is also in line to return from a punctured lung suffered against South Africa during the Rugby Championship. Waratahs tight-head Paddy Ryan could also make his debut with International Rugby Board regulations allowing for the provision of an additional replacement prop within the 23-man squad.
"Obviously you adjust things a little bit to cater for a particular opposition but we have had the benefit of some continuity leading into this match, which hasn't always been the case for us this year,"" said Deans.
"There was a lot of good stuff to come out of our last outing, but there were also plenty of things that we could have done better. We've talked about that in the time since. While the effort of the players couldn't be faulted [on that occasion], the accuracy of our execution failed us at times, and will need to be better for the challenges ahead if we are to achieve the consistency of performance we are seeking."
Winger Digby Ioane (knee), flanker David Pocock (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and lock Timani (lower back) were all involved in training this week but look set to return to the selection mix for next week's Cook Cup Test against England at Twickenham.
"Certainly we have more competition for places now than we have had at times previously, and that's only going to help drive standards and performance," said Deans. "The playing group are excited and they are looking forward to the game this weekend. The atmosphere at the Stade de France is always fantastic and the crowd vociferous: it's a great place to play the game, and a magnificent experience that none of the players who are fortunate enough to put on a jersey on the weekend will ever forget."
Australia: Mike Harris; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Nick Cummins; Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota Nau, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu
Replacements: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Paddy Ryan, Rob Simmons, Radike Samo, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Berrick Barnes
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
After Brian O'Driscoll's emotional final Ireland appearance on home soil, and seeing the Six Nations boil down to a three-horse race, we bring you the Weekend in Pictures