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No room for Quade Cooper in Australian squad to face All Blacks

Berrick Barnes has been rewarded for his exemplary form against Wales and starts at fly-half.

Walk alone: Cooper will not get the chance to make up for a disappointing World Cup in New Zealand.
Walk alone: Cooper will not get the chance to make up for a disappointing World Cup in New Zealand.
Image: Barry Aldworth/Sports Inc

QUADE COOPER HAS been left out of Australia’s team for the opening Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand, with Berrick Barnes retaining his place and Dave Dennis getting a start.

Cooper has missed Australia’s past five Tests since surgery for a knee injury suffered in the bronze medal showdown at last year’s Rugby World Cup, and missed out again, not even making the bench for the Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday.

While the Queensland Reds star has played five Super 15 games since returning, coach Robbie Deans said he was not yet fit enough for international duty, but kept the door open.

“Anyone can play a Test, but how well is the thing. Quite obviously he isn’t at the top of his fitness yet,” Deans told reporters.

He has been training with us for two of the three weeks. He has had a couple of club games, which is good. He is working hard.

“I’ve got no doubt he’ll get an opportunity again, absolutely,” he added.

Man in possession

Cooper’s omission allows Barnes, who was man of the match in consecutive Tests against Wales this year, to keep the No.10 jersey as fly-half, working outside scrum-half and newly appointed vice-captain Will Genia.

“Berrick played very well through June… so it was pretty straightforward,” Deans said.

A second Test starting role for Dennis, a move from the side to the back of the scrum for Scott Higginbotham and a return to a starting midfield position for Anthony Faingaa represent the only changes to the starting line-up.

Higginbotham, who started at blindside flanker during Australia’s last outing, when they shaded Wales 20-19 in June, takes over from the injured Wycliff Palu at No.8.

As well as Barnes and Genia, Kurtley Beale retains his position at fullback and will be supported by the versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane in the back three.

Up front, the New Zealand-schooled Sitaleki Timani gets a chance to test himself against the All Blacks pack, alongside Sekope Kepu.

David Pocock skippers the side as the Wallabies look to win a Bledisloe Cup series outright for the first time since 2001.

Wallabies team: Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Anthony Faingaa, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, David Pocock (capt), Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson.

Reserves: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Nick Phipps, Drew Mitchell.

The championship, which introduces Argentina for the first time to the annual southern hemisphere competition that also includes South Africa, runs over six weekends from 18 August to 6 October.

- © AFP, 2012

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