Cooper key for Reds

Quade Cooper will make his 100th Super Rugby appearance for the Reds against the Blues at Eden Park on Friday.

The mercurial flyhalf hasn't been at his best so far this season, and will be looking to recapture some of the form that helped lead the Reds to the Super Rugby title in 2011. It was his moment of magic that set up the Reds' first try last week, the only high point in an underwhelming performance.

Cooper proved the match-winner when the teams met last season, kicking all his team's points in a 12-11 victory. That was the Reds fourth successive victory over the Blues, which should give them some confidence heading into Friday's game. You'll have to go back to 2010 for the last time the Blues were victorious, running out 27-18 winners in Ballymore.

Reds coach Richard Graham has reacted to his teams lacklustre showing against the Canes by making four changes to his starting XV. Rod Davies and Anthony Fainga’a will return to boost the backline, with Greg Holmes and Liam Gill coming in to bolster the forward pack.

The Blues, meanwhile, have made only one change. Luke Braid misses out through a shoulder injury, with Keven Mealamu assuming the captaincy. Brendan O'Connor will take his place, with Peter Saili switching to the blindside and Jerome Kaino slotting in at No 8.

Overall: Blues 8, Reds 11, Draw 1
In Auckland: Blues 5, Reds 2, Draw 1

18 – Number of offloads made this season (Rank 2)
6 – Number of try assists this season (Rank 2)
2 – Number of handling errors made this season (Rank 2)
Source: Vodacom Stats App

Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.

Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Steven Luatua, 22 Ihaia West, 23 George Moala.

Reds – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.

Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

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Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

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