Cooper makes sensational Wallabies return as Hooper equals record, Retallick to lead All Blacks

By Sports Desk September 09, 2021

Quade Cooper will make a remarkable return for the Wallabies after being named to play for the first time since 2017 when Australia face South Africa on Sunday.

Cooper had been part of Australia's squad for the Bledisloe Cup against New Zealand, but was not used in any of the three Tests which the All Blacks comfortably won.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has rolled the dice for the Rugby Championship showdown against South Africa on the Gold Coast, with 33-year-old Cooper named at fly-half, displacing 21-year-old Noah Lolesio.

Cooper's career has taken several turns since his last cap in 2017 against Italy, frozen out at Brad Thorn's Reds in Super Rugby, before a one-year stint at the Rebels and a move to play in Japan in 2019.

"He's had a really positive impact since joining the group, put pressure on us as selectors and he's excited to get out there and perform on Sunday night," Rennie said.

Angus Bell will earn his first start in the front-row, while Izack Rodda also comes into the starting line-up, with the backline unchanged.

Wallabies hooker Feleti Kaitu'u and back-rower Rob Leota are in line for debuts off the bench.

The match will see Australia captain Michael Hooper equal George Gregan's record for most Tests as Wallabies skipper when he steps out for the 59th time.

Meanwhile, Brodie Retallick has been named as captain for New Zealand after a head knock to Ardie Savea ahead of their Test against Argentina on Sunday.

Hooker Asafo Aumua will make his first Test start for the All Blacks, while prop Joe Moody returns following foot surgery via the bench.

"Brodie is a great leader in this team and we don't take his leadership for granted," said All Blacks coach Ian Foster. "We think this is a great honour for him, and he and his family can be hugely proud. 

"He's playing really well and leads from the front. He has come back into the black jersey this year and just picked up where he left off.

"He also has an experienced partner in Beaudy [Barrett] alongside him who is bringing a calmness to the team and a sense of direction and we’re seeing that in the way he plays."

 

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Matt Philip, Lachlan Swinton, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini.
Replacements: Feleti Kaitu'u, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, George Bridge, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Karl Tu'inukuafe, Asafo Aumua, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson.
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Joe Moody, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'I, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane.

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    Alun Wyn Jones will surpass Richie McCaw's record tally of 148 caps for his country when Wales face New Zealand in a mouthwatering Autumn Nations Series clash on Saturday.

    Wales captain Jones matched legendary former All Blacks captain McCaw's astonishing number of Test appearances when he faced Scotland last year.

    The British and Irish Lions skipper will set a new record for games played for a country at Principality Stadium this weekend.

    Jones, who has played in 12 Lions Tests, will lead out a Wales side that has a blend of experience and youth.

     

    Taine Basham made his first start at international level in the back row and Gareth Anscombe makes his return at fly-half against his country of birth over two years after his last Test appearance.

    Anscombe has impressed after spending such a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

    Ken Owens was initially selected at hooker, but has since been replaced by Ryan Elias due to a back injury, with Kirby Myhill named on the bench.

    Hooker Elliot Dee has been released from the Six Nations champions' squad due to a neck injury.

    Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: "To win a World Cup you have to play against teams like New Zealand at some stage in the tournament and you have to win those games.

    "It’s going to be a great experience for those guys who haven't played a lot of test rugby and they'll certainly know they’ve been in a match afterwards."

    Wales have won only three of 35 Tests against the All Blacks ahead of the showdown in Cardiff.

     

    Wales: Johnny McNicholl, Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

    Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Ben Thomas.

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    South Africa were without their talismanic wicketkeeper-batsman for Tuesday's T20 World Cup opener with West Indies after he pulled out for "personal reasons".

    That came after Cricket South Africa (CSA) agreed all Proteas should take the knee before their remaining World Cup games, as a consistent and united stance against racism.

    CSA later confirmed De Kock was absent for the Group 1 match at Dubai International Stadium because of his refusal to follow the directive.

    South Africa captain Bavuma said he was "taken aback" by De Kock's stance.

    But De Kock has now attempted to resolve the row by releasing a wide-ranging statement following "emotional" talks with the CSA board on Wednesday.

    "I would like to start by saying sorry to my team-mates, and the fans back home," the statement, released via CSA on Thursday, read.

    "I never ever wanted to make this a Quinton issue. I understand the importance of standing against racism and the responsibility of us as players to set an example. 

    "If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so. I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves. 

    "Maybe some people don't understand that we were just hit with this on Tuesday morning, on the way to a game. I am deeply sorry for all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused."

    De Kock has previously been quiet on his decision to not show support for the anti-racism gesture, but he has now explained his reasons why.
     
    "For those who don't know, I come from a mixed race family. My half-sisters are coloured and my step mom is black," he said.

    "For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement. 

    "The rights and equality of all people is more important than any individual. I was raised to understand that we all have rights, and they are important. 

    "I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told. 

    "Since our chat with the board last night, which was very emotional, I think we all have a better understanding of their intentions as well."

    He added: "I wish this had happened sooner, because what happened on match day could have been avoided. I know I have an example to set. We were previously told we had the choice to do what we felt we wanted to do.

    "I chose to keep my thoughts to myself, and thought of the pride of playing for my family and my country. I didn't understand why I had to prove it with a gesture, when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day. 

    "When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning. If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society.  

    "Those who have grown up with me and played with me, know what type of person I am. I've been called a lot of things as a cricketer. Doff. Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn't hurt.

    "Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply. It hurts my family. It hurts my pregnant wife. I am not a racist. In my heart of hearts, I know that. And I think those who know me know that. 

    "I know I'm not great with words, but I've tried my best to explain how truly sorry I am for making like this is about me. It is not.

    "I won't lie, I was shocked that we were told on the way to an important match that there was an instruction that we had to follow, with a perceived 'or else'. 

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    "I love every one of my team-mates, and I love nothing more than playing cricket for South Africa. I think it would have been better for everyone concerned if we had sorted this out before the tournament started.

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    "I just want to thank my team-mates for their support, especially my captain, Temba," he said. "People might not recognise, but he is a flipping amazing leader. 

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    “At one stage the prediction was 174 and we were down to so, but somewhere along the line, we feel like this game is about hitting sixes.  We are getting caught on the boundary, it’s a big ground.  If I’m at 58, I’m looking to get to 80 or 90, get more runs and take the game away from the opposition.”

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