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Qantas Wallabies team named to play France

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By Qantas Wallabies Media Unit

 The names of NSW Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu and lock Kane Douglas are the new entries in the starting line-up after the Qantas Wallabies side was announced today for Saturday night’s [6.45am Sunday morning, AEDT] Trophée des Bicentenaries Test against France in Paris.

While Kepu and Douglas did feature prominently during last month’s drawn Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Brisbane, both players were injected into the game from the bench on that occasion.
Today’s selection has seen the players who featured in that contest rewarded. 
The only changes from the match night squad that halted the All Blacks’ 16-Test winning charge 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.
With the new trial rules in place for Test matches on the Spring Tour [the IRB trial changes are attached] , match night 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.
Success this weekend will see the Wallabies tie Australia’s previous best winning sequence against France: the six wins on the run achieved between 1993 and 2000.
NSW Waratahs winger Adam Ashley-Cooper and Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore, who returns from injury via the bench, are the only players involved on Saturday night who have featured in all of the previous wins achieved by the Qantas Wallabies against France during the current sequence, which began in 2008.
A further three players named today: skipper Nathan Sharpe, prop Benn Robinson and the backline reserve Barnes, featured in four of those five wins.
The Qantas Wallabies arrived in Paris last Sunday afternoon after a 30-hour trip from Australia, via London.
The squad had three days of training together in Sydney prior to its departure, and this morning completed its third session in Paris since arriving.
“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,” Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says.
“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.”
An encouraging sight at training this week has been the view of winger Digby Ioane (knee), flanker David Pocock (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and lock Timani (lower back) all involved fully as they work towards availability, most likely for next week’s Cook Cup Test against England at Twickenham Stadium in London.
The addition of the quartet will provide further selection options at the back end of a year where personnel choices have sometimes been limited by injury.
“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,” Deans says.
“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.”
Eight of this year’s Qantas Wallabies touring party have never experienced a Spring Tour before: six of the players selected for this weekend are in their first season as Test players.
Although he returns via the bench, Moore [career biography attached] 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 & Toulon] club coach Philippe Saint-Andre taking command.
Saturday night’s match kicks off just 14 hours before France salutes one of the major moments of the Franco calendar: Armistice Day, the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th month of the year; which remembers when the guns fell silent following the end of World War One.
This weekend’s commemoration, which will be the 98th since the end of a conflict fought largely on French soil; features a Memorial service on Sunday which will be attended by players from each of the Wallabies and Les Bleus squads – “combatants on Saturday night, comrades in arms hours later”.
France has a history of big results from Tests played on Armistice Day, with the All Blacks being among previous ‘victims’ who can attest to the passion and emotion the occasion can draw out of the French side.
“There is no doubt that the French will feed off that; they are a young group, and a relatively new group in the formative stages of their development,” Deans says.
“That means they will have no fear, no pre-conceptions about what has gone before, and no doubts about their ability. It is a powerful cocktail, and one that we are preparing for.”
The game, which will see the Wallabies wear poppies on the playing jersey as Australian Rugby’s own tribute for Armistice Day, kicks off a 7am on Sunday morning [AEDT] and will be broadcast live on Australian rugby’s new free-to-air broadcaster, Channel 10.
The Qantas Wallabies team to play France in the Trophée des Bicentenaries Test at the Stade de France, Paris on Saturday (kick-off: 9pm local time, 6.45am AEDST) is:
15. Mike Harris (Queensland Reds)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
13. Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds)
12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
11. Nick Cummins (Western Force)
10. Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
8. Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs)
7. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
6. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force, captain)
4. Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs)
3. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
2. Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs)
1. Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Paddy Ryan (NSW Waratahs)
19. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
20. Radike Samo (Queensland Reds)
21. Liam Gill (Queensland Reds)
22. Brett Sheehan (Western Force)
23. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
Australia v France @ Paris – Historical Notes
  • This is the 42nd Test match between the Qantas Wallabies and Les Bleus. Australia has won 23 of the previous games and France 16, with two drawn.
  • Of the 21 matches previously played in France, Australia has won eight, lost 12 and drawn one.
  • Five of Australia’s eight wins in France have come from the last six appearances in Paris, with the 14-27 loss in 2004 the Wallabies’ sole defeat in the French capital going back to 1993.
  • The Qantas Wallabies land in Paris bidding for their sixth consecutive win over France dating back to 2008. Success would match Australia’s best winning sequence against France, which was achieved between 1993 and 2000 and included the 1999 Rugby World Cup final.
  • Victory would also secure Australia three-straight on French soil for just the second time, after wins on the visits of 2008 and 2010. Australia won consecutively against France in Paris on the visits of 1993, 1998 and 2000.
  • Australia posted a record 59-16 win over the then Six Nations champion French side during the Wallabies’ last visit to Paris in 2010. Both the 59 points scored, and 43-point margin of victory were records for Australia in all matches against France – both home and away.
  • Nine of the match night squad named for this weekend featured in the corresponding match two years ago, with Kurtley Beale (then at fullback), Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Stephen Moore and James Slipper all in the run on XV, while Benn Robinson and Tatafu Polota Nau featured off the bench.
  • The 29 points totalled by James O’Connor in the 2010 match were individual records, both for Australia against France, and also for a Wallaby in any match played outside of Australia.
  • The three tries scored by winger Drew Mitchell in that match was also a record, being the first instance of an Australian claiming a hat-trick against France. While Mitchell is in the Qantas Wallabies tour party, he will not be involved in this weekend’s match.
  • No French player has ever scored a hat-trick against Australia. Five players have scored two tries for France playing against Australia, with fullback Serge Blanco achieving the feat twice. Blanco holds the record for the most tries by a Frenchman in Tests (38) which includes the most by a Frenchman in a career against Australia with five.
 View the team naming press conference here.