Quade Cooper will lead Australia's attacking assault during Sunday's World Cup match against Uruguay at Villa Park, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
In August, Cooper was given the chance to stake his claim for the Wallabies No 10 jersey when he started against the All Blacks in Auckland. It was one he failed to take, with an erratic performance ending when he was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Aaron Smith that resulted in a penalty try. He was not brought back on.
It was therefore no surprise when the more consistent Bernard Foley was selected to start at flyhalf for the Wallabies' World Cup opener against Fiji on Wednesday. Cooper, though, has been given another chance to show what he can do, with coach Michael Cheika having made 14 changes to his starting lineup (only loosehead prop Scott Sio remains).
And Cooper should excel against a Uruguay team that conceded eight tries against Wales in their opening World Cup match. The problem for the 27-year-old is that the standard of opposition means he is unlikely to leapfrog Foley for the big pool matches against England and Wales no matter what he does on Sunday.
This is a match the Wallabies should win by a big margin. When asked about his side's failure to secure a bonus point against Fiji, which England had managed to do, Cheika said the World Cup isn't Super Rugby. However, bonus points could yet be a deciding factor in the Pool of Death and Australia simply have to get the full five points here. That won't be a problem, even if they are fielding a B team.
Uruguay have made four changes to their pack for this match and one to their backline, with regular captain, hooker Nicolás Klappenbach, set to make his return from injury off the bench.
Los Teros lost 54-9 to Wales and will do well to restrict the Wallabies to a similar scoreline.
COOPER'S STATS THAT MATTER
57 – Test caps
44 – Test starts
7 – World Cup starts, all in 2011
2 – Test starts at flyhalf this year
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting in Test rugby
Wallabies – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Henry Speight, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Sean McMahon, 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Toby Smith, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Rob Simmons, 21 Will Genia, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Uruguay – 15 Gaston Mieres, 14 Leandro Leivas, 13 Joaquin Prada, 12 Andres Vilaseca, 11 Rodrigo Silva, 10 Felipe Berchesi, 9 Agustin Ormaechea, 8 Juan Manuel Gaminara, 7 Matias Beer, 6 Juan De Freitas, 5 Franco Lamanna, 4 Santiago Vilaseca (c), 3 Mario Sagario, 2 German Kessler, 1 Mateo Sanguinetti.
Subs: 16 Nicolás Klappenbach, 17 Oscar Duran, 18 Carlos Arboleya, 19 Alejandro Nieto, 20 Diego Magno, 21 Fernando Bascou, 22 Alejo Duran, 23 Alberto Roman.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images