Cooper gets Wallaby nod
Quade Cooper (Gallo Images)
Sydney - Quade Cooper has displaced Matt Giteau at flyhalf in the starting line-up for Australia's opening Test of the season against Fiji.
Cooper, who was Australia's Super 14 player of the season following his influential performances for the resurgent Reds, switches positions with Giteau, who moves to inside centre, from Australia's last Test - a 33-12 win over Wales in Cardiff last November.
Australia coach Robbie Deans announced the 22-man squad on Tuesday, preferring Kurtley Beale at fullback to James O'Connor and moving Adam Ashley-Cooper to the wing.
Luke Burgess regained his starting scrumhalf spot ahead of Josh Valentine to cover for injured Will Genia.
Tighthead prop Salesi Ma'afu, hooker Huia Edmonds and outside centre Rob Horne will all earn their first Test caps after being named in the starting line-up. The addition of Horne meant Digby Ioane reverted to the wing from the midfield, where he played during the last Spring tour.
Richard Brown earned another Test start at No 8 in the absence of injured backrower Wycliff Palu, while blindside flank Rocky Elsom will lead Australia on home soil for the first time in what will be his 50th Test.
Deans said the selection was a good starting point for the Test season, with other players getting an opportunity for the Australian Barbarians against England next week.
"This is the group we've opted to go with first up. A number of the combinations are familiar, but the selection template is always a living document," he says. "We'll then assess how things have gone in the first two outings and look ahead from there."
Australia has won 15 of its 18 Tests against Fiji and had one draw. Fiji's last win over the Wallabies was in 1954.
Fiji reached the quarter-finals at the 2007 World Cup, where they went close to upsetting eventual champions South Africa.
"The individual talent the Fijian players possess is well known," Deans said. "On their day, they are capable of anything, as has been shown historically, where teams who have under-estimated their capabilities have been burnt!"
The Australian Rugby Union said if Fiji selects prop Campese Ma'afu - the younger brother of Salesi Ma'afu - for the weekend match, it will be the first time two brothers have made their Test debuts on opposing teams. Teams:Australia:
15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Digby Ioane, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Matt Giteau, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Luke Burgess, 8. Richard Brown, 7. David Pocock, 6. Rocky Elsom (captain), 5. Nathan Sharpe, 4. Dean Mumm, 3. Salesi Ma'afu, 2. Huia Edmonds, 1. Ben Alexander
Substitutes: 16. Saia Faingaa, 17. Pekahou Cowan, 18. Mark Chisholm, 19. Matt Hodgson, 20. Josh Valentine, 21. Drew Mitchell, 22. James O'ConnorFiji: