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Deans 'adjust' his team for French

Thu, 08 Nov 2012 09:36
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There was a lot of good stuff to come out of our last outing
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Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu and lock Kane Douglas will get their first starting spots in the Australian team when the Wallabies bid to continue their formidable record against France on Saturday.

Kepu and Douglas both featured from the bench in last month's drawn Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand that halted the All Blacks' 16-Test winning run.

But the duo have been rewarded for their performances in Brisbane.

Other changes from the line-up that day will see Rob Simmons join the bench in place of the injured Sitaleki Timani, while Berrick Barnes returns from injury to take over from Drew Mitchell as one of two backline replacements.

"Obviously you adjust things a little bit to cater for a particular opposition but we have had the benefit of some continuity leading into this match, which hasn't always been the case for us this year," Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said.

"There was a lot of good stuff to come out of our last outing, but there were also plenty of things that we could have done better.

"We've talked about that in the time since. While the effort of the players couldn't be faulted (on that occasion), the accuracy of our execution failed us at times, and will need to be better for the challenges ahead if we are to achieve the consistency of performance we are seeking."

Success at the Stade de France on Saturday would see the Wallabies tie Australia's previous best winning sequence against France: the six wins on the run achieved between 1993 and 2000.

Waratahs wing Adam Ashley-Cooper and Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore, who returns from injury via the bench, are the only players involved on Saturday who have featured in all of the previous wins achieved by the Wallabies against France during the current sequence, which began in 2008.

A further three players - skipper Nathan Sharpe, prop Benn Robinson and reserve back Barnes - featured in four of those five wins.

Coach Deans said that four key players not selected for the France match were back in training and most likely available for next weekend's Test against England at Twickenham.

Wing Digby Ioane (knee), flank David Pocock (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and lock Timani (lower back) have all been fully involved in training on their road back from injuries.

"Certainly we have more competition for places now than we have had at times previously, and that's only going to help drive standards and performance," said Deans.

"The playing group are excited and they are looking forward to the game this weekend.

"The atmosphere at the Stade de France is always fantastic and the crowd vociferous: it's a great place to play the game, and a magnificent experience that none of the players who are fortunate enough to put on a jersey on the weekend will ever forget."

With the new trial rules in place for Test matches on the year-end tour matchday squads have been enlarged to 23 players, to cater for the inclusion of two prop forwards on the bench.

This will allow both James Slipper and Paddy Ryan to participate at the Stade de France, with Ryan poised to become the 13th newly capped Wallaby for the year from 12 Test matches, should he be required to take the field.

The Wallabies arrived in Paris this past Sunday, after a 30-hour trip from Australia, via London.

The squad had three days of training together in Sydney prior to its departure, and Thursday morning completed their third session in Paris since arriving.

Eight of this year's Wallabies touring party have never experienced a year-end before: six of the players selected for this weekend are in their first season as Test players.

Although he returns via the bench, Moore will achieve a notable career milestone if required to take the field.

The Brumbies hooker tied Jeremy Paul as Australia's most capped rake when he appeared in his 72nd Test during Australia's Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland at the end of August.

Moore was set to surpass Paul two weeks later, when named to face South Africa in Perth, but strained his hamstring at training in the lead-up to the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate defence, and has not been available since.

One of his previous 72 Test caps was earned the last time the Wallabies appeared in Paris, where Moore started as Australia beat France by a record 59-16 score-line two years ago.

Much has changed in the time since, with France going on to make last year's Rugby World Cup Final, which was lost by just a single point, before changing coaches, with the ex-Test captain and well performed [Manchester Sale, Gloucester and Toulon] club coach Philippe Saint-Andre taking command.

Australia: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Radike Samo, 21 Liam Gill, 22 Brett Sheehan, 23 Berrick Barnes.

Date: Saturday, November 10
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT; 07.00, Sunday, November 11 AEDST)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Neil Paterson (Scotland)
TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

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