Fri, Aug 14, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Cooper to face Eden Park demons

Reuters, MELBOURNE, Australia

Australia’s Quade Cooper is tackled during their game against Scotland in Edinburgh on Nov. 23, 2013.

Photo: AP

Australia coach Michael Cheika has sprung a surprise by naming Quade Cooper at flyhalf in one of six changes to the starting side for the Bledisloe Cup decider against the All Blacks at Eden Park tomorrow.

New Zealand-born Cooper was omitted from the side who beat the All Blacks in Sydney last week, but returns to the venue where he endured a poor game in Australia’s World Cup semi-final defeat to the hosts in 2011.

He also suffered a sickening knee injury at Eden Park in the tournament’s bronze-medal decider and has since struggled against the All Blacks.

The 27-year-old has been paired with scrumhalf Nic White, who came off the bench at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium to boot a long-range penalty and score the match-winning try in a strong cameo.

Nick Phipps, who played poorly at scrumhalf last week, has been omitted from the match-day squad released yesterday.

After toppling the All Blacks 27-19 in Sydney, Australia fly to New Zealand with renewed hope of winning back the Bledisloe Cup, the annual trophy contested between the nations, to try to reclaim it for the first time since they lost it in 2003.

They will have to overcome world champion opponents who have not lost twice in a row in four years and at a venue where the Wallabies have not beaten the home side since 1986.

“We know this week will be another huge challenge for the team and our biggest test to date, and we need to improve again on what we’ve produced in our previous matches,” Cheika said.

Cheika has also shelved the back-row combination of David Pocock and Michael Hooper, who proved highly successful in Sydney, to give specialist No. 8 Wycliff Palu a run.

Pocock, in line for his 50th cap after two seasons wiped out by serious knee injuries, drops to a bench that also features 14-Test lock Kane Douglas, who has returned from Ireland and recovered from a back injury.

“David has had to overcome some hurdles with regards to injury to reach this milestone, but the way in which he’s got there through perseverance and a lot of hard work and patience is a great measure of his character,” Cheika said.

RUGBY WORLD CUP

Reuters, WELLINGTON

New Zealand will give Waisake Naholo every opportunity to make the World Cup squad after reports the winger, who broke his leg last month, has made swift progress in his recovery following alternative treatment in Fiji.

Naholo, who helped the Otago Highlanders land a first Super Rugby title earlier this year, was ruled out of the Sept. 18 to Oct. 31 tournament in England after cracking his fibula during his Test debut in the win over Argentina on July 17.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said after the 39-18 win over the Pumas that Naholo faced three months on the sidelines, but New Zealand media reported this week that Naholo was back doing light training already.

Hansen, who is to name his 31-man squad on Aug. 31, was optimistic the 24-year-old could yet make it.

“I know of the treatment because I was over there not so long ago, before Waisake got injured, and they were talking about it,” Hansen was quoted as saying by New Zealand media yesterday. “And they swear by it. So who are we to boo-hoo alternative medicine? The Chinese have been doing it for years.”

“If it works I’m a believer,” Hansen said. “I don’t care what he’s doing, if it’s making him think he’ll get better and he does get better then we’ve got one more person we can select.”

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