Cooper and Giteau out to spark Wallabies
June 3, 2010
Quade Cooper starts at No.10 for Australia © Getty Images
Australia kick-off their Test season against Fiji in Canberra on Saturday and all eyes are on the man at No.10, Quade Cooper.
The Reds fly-half has been in electric form this season and his brash, flamboyant style has led Robbie Deans to reshuffle his midfield deck, shifting Matt Giteau out to inside centre and dropping Berrick Barnes down to the Australian Barbarians squad.
With a two-Test series against England on the horizon and a disappointing 2009 Tri-Nations finish to put right, Deans' faith in form could be rewarded against Fiji, where there will be an opportunity for combinations to gel prior to the first Test against Martin Johnson's men on June 12. The Wallabies have seen precious little of their opponents and will need to be ready for some surprises.
Giteau is confident that the new-look midfield will function, with Luke Burgess deputising for the injured Will Genia at scrum-half, and is content with his own form heading into a tough season a year out from the World Cup.
"It's pretty natural to mix in and out, especially the way we've been trying to play," he said. "For me, I feel really comfortable with the way it is and hopefully Quade feels the same. With the Brumbies this year I felt I probably played some of my better footy at 12 but also that I was maybe more involved with ball in hand when I was playing 10, so either way it's hard to say where I think I was best served.
"Quade had a great year for the Reds and when you consider someone like Berrick can't even make the 22, it makes you realise that with the quality of players we've got at the moment. I'm just happy being in the 22."
Deans has named three new caps in his starting XV, with Waratahs centre Rob Horne lining up in the No.13 jersey outside the experienced Giteau. His club team-mate, Kurtley Beale, will make his first Test start at fullback due to a court date being his next pressing engagement.
The other two changes come in the pack, where Brumbies front-rowers Huia Edmonds and Salesi Ma'afu have an opportunity to press their claims for the remainder of the season in place of the injured Stephen Moore and Benn Robinson. Ben Alexander shifts to loose-head to accommodate Ma'afu at No.3.
It will be a particularly special occasion for Ma'afu, who will join a small band of players to oppose his brother in Tests. His brother, Campese, named after the legendary Wallabies wing, starts at loose-head as one of six new faces for Fiji. It will be the first time that brothers have made their debuts for different countries and there will be plenty of spice at the first scrum. Scarlets tight-head Deacon Manu also weighs in up front and captains the side while former Harlequins fly-half Waisea Luveniyali and Ulster wing Timoci Nagusa both start.
The biggest headlines are reserved for the man named at inside-centre however, as Rupeni Caucaunibuca makes his return to the Test arena after four years away. The Agen utility, scorer of some of Super Rugby's most audacious tries during his time with the Blues, is fresh from helping his club back into the Top 14 in France and links up with Albi's Saula Radidi.
Both prop Alefoso Yalayalatabua and scrum-half Nikola Matawalu were denied visas due to their association with the Fijian military, leading to Vesi Rarawa and Rupeni Nasiga, a former Sevens international, being called up to the wider squad. Nasiga starts among the replacements.
Australia: K Beale; D Ioane, R Horne, M Giteau, A Ashley-Cooper; Q Cooper, L Burgess; B Alexander, H Edmonds, S Ma'afu, D Mumm, N Sharpe, R Elsom (capt), D Pocock, R Brown
Replacements: S Faingaa, P Cowan, M Chisholm, M Hodgson, J Valentine, D Mitchell, J O'Connor
Fiji: D Rawaqa; T Nagusa, S Radidi, R Caucaunibuca, S Bobo; W Luveniyali, E Vucago; C Ma'afu. T Tuapati, D Manu, S Kalou, D Waqaniburotu. A Wise, J Nakaidawa, J Qovu
Replacements: V Veikoso, G Dewes, R Nasiga, S Bola, V Buatava, R Ratu, N Nadolo