Rugby Championship

Cooper, Folau set to ignite Oz

2013-09-05 08:00
Israel Folau (Getty Images)

Brisbane - The Wallabies are banking on the mercurial attacking talents of Israel Folau and Quade Cooper to turn around their Rugby Championship fortunes against South Africa in Brisbane on Saturday.

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Australia have lost both their opening two Tests of the southern hemisphere series and with it the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup to New Zealand, while the Springboks are unbeaten in the tournament after back-to-back wins over Argentina.

Ewen McKenzie is looking to the return of playmaker Cooper and the switching of Folau from wing to fullback to ignite the Wallabies' attack and kick-start their campaign as he seeks his first victory as Australia coach.

The Springboks have not won in their past eight visits to Brisbane and Heyneke Meyer's men are looking for their first success in Australia in four years.

McKenzie has recalled Cooper at flyhalf for Matt Toomua and shifted Folau from the wing, where he had limited opportunities against the All Blacks, to fullback at the expense of Jesse Mogg. Nick Cummins comes onto the right wing for his seventh international cap.

It is the first time Cooper, out of favour under previous coach Robbie Deans, has played at No 10 for Australia since the Wallabies defeated South Africa and Argentina in back-to-back Tests in September last year.

McKenzie, who replaced Deans after Australia's 2-1 home series loss to the British and Irish Lions in July, is confident he has a potent mix with Cooper and Folau in place to overcome South Africa.

"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. "There's an innate ability there, especially one-on-one (with Folau).

"If you can create those one-on-one opportunities, it doesn't matter how good the (Springbok) guy is in defence. Even if he (Folau) does get tackled, he still gets the ball away, so he's hard to contain."

Meyer believes South Africa will take on one of the best backlines his team has faced with Cooper and Folau the focal points.

"You look at this team and it's a really full-on attack team," Meyer said.

"They know we have travelled so they will really try to run our forwards flat and tired.

"Without talking them up too much I think this is probably one of the best backlines we have faced, and not just this year."

Meyer has made three changes and two positional switches from the team that beat the Pumas 22-17 in Mendoza in August.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis, lock Flip van der Merwe and fullback Zane Kirchner have been drafted in, with Willie le Roux shifted from fullback to the right wing in place of Bjorn Basson and Bryan Habana chosen on the left wing.

"A few of these changes are purely rotational in order to give guys with fresh legs a go, while others are simply a case of horses for courses," Meyer said.

"We're fortunate to be in a position to rotate players of the calibre of Bismarck and Adriaan (Strauss), while we felt this was the right opportunity to give Flip and Zane a go in the starting team.

"In the end, the most important factor still remains consistency in selection. In our squad, any player can slot in at any stage, and that is a good position to be in."

The Wallabies suffered a blow on Thursday with the withdrawal of skipper James Horwill with a hamstring injury, making way for Kane Douglas to partner Rob Simmons at lock. Scrumhalf Will Genia takes over the captaincy.



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

Substitutes: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Ben McCalman, 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

Read more on:    springboks  |  wallabies  |  rugby championship  |  rugby

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