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Thursday Aug 5, 2021

No Quade Cooper as Wallabies opt for youth in All Blacks clash

Veteran Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper has missed out on a spot in the match-day squad for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks, while scrumhalf Nic White will be given another week to recover from a knee injury.

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Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has named an all-new back three for the match at Eden Park, with the entire backline featuring a combined experience of just 45 Tests.

Noah Lolesio retains his spot at No.10 after his strong displays in the 2-1 series win over France, while Queensland Reds half Tate McDermott earns his second start at Test level.

Superstar winger Marika Koroibete was among three Wallabies players scrubbed out of the match after leaving teammates filthy over a late-night drinking session last week.

Jordan Petaia has been named on the right wing for his first international of 2021, with Andrew Kellaway earning his debut start on the left wing.

Tom Banks, who with 14 Tests to his name is the most exp erienced player in the starting backline, has been named at fullback, with Hunter Paisami partnering Len Ikitau in the midfield.

Playmaker options Reece Hodge and Matt Toomua have been named on the bench.

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Cooper was rushed into the 42-man travelling party last month after James O’Connor failed to recover from a groin injury.

The 33-year-old Cooper will serve mostly as a mentor during the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series, but he’s also keen to don the Wallabies gold for the first time since 2017.

He is a chance to earn some game time in next week’s return clash against NZ at Eden Park.

“He’s training really well,” Rennie said on Thursday.

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“That experience shines out at training. It’s great preparation for us, because he’s really driving the opposition plays.

“I’ve spoken to him about the fact that he’s not just here to help Noah and to give us a training number. He genuinely wants to play Test footy. I have no doubt it’s a possibility.”

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Rennie said White ( knee) and flanker Lachlan Swinton (ankle) should be available for selection next week.

Koroibete and forwards Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili were ruled unavailable for the series opener for breaching team protocol by continuing to consume alcohol more than two hours after curfew, following a bonding session in Auckland last Saturday.

Their actions angered their teammates at a moment where Australia are attempting to end a 35-year Eden Park hoodoo.

The run-on front row remains settled with James Slipper in line to play his 104th Test at loosehead prop, joined by Brandon Paenga-Amosa at hooker and club teammate Allan Alaalatoa at tighthead.

After an impressive series against the French, youngster Darcy Swain will play in his first Bledisloe Cup Test, combining with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second row.

Rob Valetini and Harry Wilson return to the starting side at blindside flanker and No. 8 respectively.

Skipper Michael Hooper ro unds out the back row in his 56th Test as captain, just three behind Australia’s most-capped leader, George Gregan.

WALLABIES:

Tom Banks, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Andrew Kellaway, Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper (capt), Rob Valetini, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Darcy Swain, Allan Ala’alatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Matt Philip, Fraser McReight, Jake Gordon, Matt To’omua, Reece Hodge.

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