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Australia make two changes for New Zealand

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Mercurial Australian fly-half Quade Cooper has been named on the replacements bench for the Wallabies Bledisloe Cup clash against New Zealand’s All Blacks this weekend.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made two changes to the starting side that lost to Argentina with Christian Leali’ifano at inside centre and Rob Simmons returning at lock.

The Bledisloe Cup Test will be in Cooper’s home town of Brisbane and this will be his first Test opportunity in 2014 due to a series of injuries.

Centre Adam Ashley-Cooper will win his 100th Test cap making him the sixth player in Australian Rugby history to reach the prestigious 100-game Test milestone.

Ashley-Cooper will join an illustrious group that boasts only five legends of the game – George Gregan (139 caps), Nathan Sharpe (116), George Smith (111), Stephen Larkham (102) and David Campese (101).

In the changes to the side Leali’ifano replaces the injured Matt Toomua at inside centre for his first Test match this year.

Simmons returns at lock after recovering from a head knock that he suffered playing against the Springboks in Cape Town which forced him to miss the Test against Argentina.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie congratulated Ashley Cooper on his milestone 100th game.

“Adam has had a remarkable career and he deserves the accolades which come with joining what is an extremely elite group of players to have played 100 games for Australia,” McKenzie said.

“It’s a massive honour and a true testament of his ability to play at a consistently high level over such a long period of time.

“Australian Rugby congratulates Adam on what is truly a special achievement.”

McKenzie also backed Leali’ifano and Cooper to make a positive return.

“It’s always hard when you have to watch from the sideline, so I’m sure they will be determined to make the most of their opportunities,” he said.

“They’re two experienced players who have performed at a high level for Australia before, and you can’t discount the value of experience in these big games.

“Quade has had a lot of great memories at Suncorp Stadium, and we’ll be looking for him to provide the same impact should he get called on late in the game.”

McKenzie said the team was also determined to continue its strong domestic form this year, which has resulted in five wins and one draw on Australian soil.

“The group has spoken about the importance of this week’s game and ensuring the focus remains on our preparation and putting the team in the best possible position to win the game on Saturday night.

“It’s always important to perform in front of your home fans, and this week offers the team a chance to end the 2014 home Test season unbeaten, and square the series against New Zealand.”

Australia

Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (capt), Scott Fardy; Rob Simmons, Sam Carter; Sekope Kepu, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper.

Replacements : Josh Mann-Rea, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Matt Hodgson, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Rob Horne.

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