Deans offers Wallaby hope to Cooper
By Adrian Warren
16:48 AEST Tue Aug 14 2012

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans on Tuesday put his faith in a relatively-untested inside back combination for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand, but offered hope to the omitted Quade Cooper.

Incumbent five-eighth Berrick Barnes retained the No.10 jersey for the ANZ Stadium encounter, with halfback Nick Phipps and recalled outside back Drew Mitchell the only backs named on Australia's seven-man bench.

As expected, the only changes to the run-on side that completed a three-Test June whitewash of Wales were forced by injuries to centre Pat McCabe and No.8 Wycliff Palu.

Anthony Faingaa replaced McCabe, while Dave Dennis was brought in at blindside flanker, with Scott Higginbotham shifting from that position to No.8.

Faingaa's only listed Test start at inside centre was against New Zealand in Christchurch in 2010, when Matt Giteau was the five-eighth and Barnes was an unused substitute.

"I've played a lot more in the centres with Ant - 12 and 13. I haven't played a lot of 10 and 12 with him," Barnes said.

On Faingaa's selection, Deans said the Queensland back's history with the group was the factor that earned him the contentious position.

"He's been a big part of this 22 for quite a while now and he's had quite an impact," Deans said.

"He's a bloke who the other players feed off. He provides a lot of voice - he enjoys the contest."

Cooper has played five Super Rugby games and some club matches in Brisbane since returning from knee surgery after getting injured in last year's World Cup bronze medal game.

Deans said Cooper wasn't yet back to top fitness and revealed settling on his five-eighth hadn't been a particularly difficult decision.

"Berrick played very well through June and we had good continuity prior to the mishap with Pat McCabe, so it was pretty straightforward," Deans said.

Deans said Cooper took the news of his omission very well.

Asked what the mercurial Reds back needed to do to regain a spot, Deans said: "keep doing what he's doing - keep working with us.

"There's not a lot of certainty in this industry.

"I've got no doubt he'll get an opportunity again, absolutely."

Deans said Dennis, who will make just his second Test start, had proven himself as an international player in the June Tests.

"He's been great - he's very consistent," Deans said of Dennis.

He said Mitchell's experience made him the best man for the job of replacement outside back, even though he wasn't yet back to his best after an ankle issue sidelined him for most of the Super Rugby season.

Mitchell's 58th and most recent Test appearance was against Russia in a World Cup match last October.

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

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