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Quade Cooper named to start for Wallabies as one of three foreign-based stars

By PA
Quade Cooper /Getty

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Quade Cooper will form an experienced half-back combination with Nic White for Australia’s series opener against England in Perth on Saturday.

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Cooper will play his first Test since helping the Wallabies to a narrow win against Japan in October and edges James O’Connor and Noah Lolesio for the number 10 jersey.

Lolesio provides cover for Cooper from the bench but O’Connor has been left out of the matchday 23 altogether.

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Maori All Blacks post-match press conference
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Maori All Blacks post-match press conference

Former Exeter scrum-half White joins Cooper to resume a playmaking axis that masterminded five straight wins last year and they will be looking to launch the powerful Samu Kerevi at inside centre.

Openside Michael Hooper captains the team for the 66th time and there are two debutants in hooker David Porecki and lock Cadeyrn Neville.

“There were a lot of challenging decisions, which is a good thing because we’ve been trying to build depth,” head coach Dave Rennie said.

“We left James out of the mix because he’s not quite sharp enough yet after missing a large chunk of the year. He’s back fit and available but lacks a bit of sharpness.

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“Quade brings a calmness, he has massive experience and has trained very well.”

Speaking to media on Monday, Cooper said that his mindset hasn’t changed after a long international exile before a fairytale return to the Wallabies last year.

The 34-year-old was perfect from the tee to kick eight goals, including a long-range penalty on the buzzer to beat the Springboks on the Gold Coast in The Rugby Championship.

“From a mindset point of view, not much has changed,” Cooper said.

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“It’s a huge honour and privilege to be able to represent your country, so for me I’ll never take that for granted in terms of making sure physically and mentally, I’m prepared for an opportunity.

“I knew that with the way that the selection process is running now they get to select three people from overseas, there are a fair few candidates who put their hand up.

“I just made sure I could do the best that I can for my club, Kintetsu, then this opportunity arose, getting a phone call from Dave.

“It will be a tough series after seeing how well the English have been playing over the past few years.”

The Wallabies won five straight tests with Quade Cooper in the starting line-up before ending the year with a winless end of year tour in Europe.

Cooper’s absence was sorely felt as they struggled to win before he returned and did not win a test after he returned to Japan for club commitments.

“By that stage I was well and truly in pre-season with my team. Any time you are watching the boys and they come up short, it hurts everybody who is a Wallabies fan, or anybody involved in the rugby community in some way,” he said of missing the European leg.

“I know the path the boys were on, it was a great learning curve.

“I was grateful for the opportunity I had before the Spring tour, but as it was well documented at that time, a few of us had to get back to our clubs.”

Wallabies team to face England:

1. Angus Bell (16 Tests)
2. David Porecki*
3. Allan Alaalatoa (53 Tests)
4. Darcy Swain (10 Tests)
5. Cadeyrn Neville*
6. Rob Leota (6 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (118 Tests)
8. Rob Valetini (18 Tests)
9. Nic White (47 Tests)
10. Quade Cooper (75 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (42 Tests)
12. Samu Kerevi (38 Tests)
13. Len Ikitau (13 Tests)
14. Andrew Kellaway (13 Tests)
15. Tom Banks (19 Tests)

Replacements

16. Folau Fainga’a (25 Tests)
17. Scott Sio (69 Tests)
18. James Slipper (114 Tests)
19. Matt Philip (20 Tests)
20. Pete Samu (19 Tests)
21. Jake Gordon (10 Tests)
22. Noah Lolesio (9 Tests)
23. Jordan Petaia (16 Tests)

-PA with additional reporting by RugbyPass

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