Cooper starts, Folau at fullback

Quade Cooper (Getty Images)
Quade Cooper (Getty Images)
Brisbane - Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper returns to the starting line-up for Saturday's clash with the Springboks, with Israel Folau shifted to fullback to make the best use of his attacking potential.

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Australia have lost both their opening matches in the Rugby Championship to New Zealand, forcing new coach Ewen McKenzie to shuffle the backline for the crucial Brisbane showdown.

The addition of Cooper and the shift from the wing for Folau represent two of four changes to the starting XV, which include Sekope Kepu and Nick Cummins getting an opportunity at tighthead prop and on the wing.

Cooper fell out of favour under former Australia coach Robbie Deans and Saturday will be the first time he has worn the No 10 jersey since the Wallabies defeated South Africa and Argentina in back-to-back Tests in September last year.

He is now well and truly in the mix under his former Reds mentor McKenzie, who said Cooper, reunited with scrumhalf and Reds team-mate Will Genia, deserved to be back.

"We have very specific thoughts about how we want to play this game and feel Quade is best suited to carrying that out," he said.

"He's been part of our match-day squad in both games so far but his role now changes from being a finisher to starting the game. We feel that role will suit how we want to play.

"He is also an experienced and successful Test player, which is handy to have against a hardened Springboks outfit."

Folau, who rebuffed a return to the National Rugby League by signing a two-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union last week, has played all of his five Tests so far on the wing.

But McKenzie now sees his attacking potential best used at fullback.

"Israel has played more fullback than on the wing so he will undoubtedly feel comfortable playing the position," he said.
"He has looked impressive at training and we think he will add value with how we want to approach the game."

Folau, who was starved of opportunities on the wing against New Zealand, was excited about finally getting the chance to play a Test in the position where he starred in Super Rugby.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to play fullback," he said.

"They are a team that likes to kick a lot so hopefully I get my hands on the ball, and in general play as well.

"I think it's easier to slot into the line playing at fullback... but I enjoyed playing on the wing as well."

His move opens the door for Western Force winger Cummins, who has been given his first opportunity of 2013, adding to the six Test caps he has earned since making his debut against Argentina last year.

"Once we made the decision to move Israel it opened the door for another player on the wing. The Springboks are an abrasive and physical team and we feel Nick's style of play will suit that," said McKenzie.

Kepu replaces Ben Alexander at tighthead in the only other change to the starting side, while on the bench Reds backrower Jake Schatz is in line to make his long-awaited Test debut.

The Springboks have never beaten Australia at Suncorp Stadium. The only two previous wins against Australia in Brisbane were at the Exhibition Ground (in 1956 and 1971). The Springboks beat Samoa 60-10 on 1 November, 2003 during the Rugby World Cup. 

Teams:

Australia:

15 Israel Folau, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Adam-Ashley Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Jesse Mogg

South Africa:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
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NSW Waratahs 24
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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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