Quade Cooper will make a remarkable return to the Test arena after being selected at flyhalf for the Wallabies showdown with Rugby World Cup holders, South Africa, on the Gold Coast on Sunday night.
The eToro Rugby Championship match will also see skipper Michael Hooper equal George Gregan’s record for most Tests as Wallabies captain, when he leads the side out for the 59th time at Cbus Super Stadium.
In his 112th Test, the match will also see Hooper overtake George Smith as the fifth most capped Wallaby of all time
The fixture will also be the starting debut for Angus Bell, the youngest member of the squad as he joins hooker Folau Fainga’a and tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa in the front row, with the latter set to bring up his 50th appearance for the Wallabies.
After returning to the Test side via the pine last week, Izack Rodda earns a starting berth in the second row alongside Matt Philip.
The backrow remains unchanged for the third consecutive Test with blindside flanker Lachlan Swinton and number 8 Rob Valetini joining Hooper, who will fill the familiar number seven jersey.
Reds nine Tate McDermott will partner Cooper in the halves with the midfield combination of Samu Kerevi and Len Ikitau earning another opportunity together.
Cooper’s last Test was more than four years ago, when he ran out against Italy at Suncorp Stadium in June 2017. The mercurial flyhalf has a strong record against the Springboks, boasting nine wins against the reigning world champions over his 70-Test career.
A settled back three sees Marika Koroibete on the right wing, Andrew Kellaway on the left wing and Tom Banks at fullback.
Western Force hooker Feleti Kaitu’u is one of two potential debutants named on the bench. Gold Coast local James Slipper will play his 107th Test in front of his family and friends with Taniela Tupou set to be unleashed as the reserve tighthead prop.
Melbourne-born Rob Leota is the second potential debutant in the squad, with Brumbies backrower Pete Samu retaining his spot in the match-day 23 after an impressive impact in Perth last weekend.
Nic White will bring experience late in the game at scrumhalf while Reece Hodge will also play his 50th Test for Australia on Sunday night. The electric Jordan Petaia rounds out the match-day 23.
Australia has won eight of their last 10 matches against the Springboks at home, but the two sides have never met at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast in the storied 88 year playing history.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said: “We’re thrilled for Quade that he’s earned another opportunity to pull on the gold jersey for his country.”
“He’s had a really positive impact since joining the group, put pressure on us as selectors and he’s excited to get out there and perform on Sunday night.
“The match is also a huge occasion for our leader Michael Hooper. He’s been in phenomenal form and to equal George Gregan’s record as the most Tests as captain of Australia is a testament to his leadership and resilience.
“We also can’t overlook Allan and Reece who will bring up 50 Tests for their country, another outstanding achievement for two ultimate professionals who leave it all on the field every time they wear the jersey.”
Wallabies team to play South Africa at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast on Sunday 12 September, 8:05pm AEST
1. Angus Bell (8 Tests)
2. Folau Fainga’a (17 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (49 Tests)
4. Izack Rodda (26 Tests)
5. Matt Philip (15 Tests)
6. Lachlan Swinton (4 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (111 Tests)
8. Rob Valetini (10 Tests)
9. Tate McDermott (8 Tests)
10. Quade Cooper (70 Tests)
11. Marika Koroibete (39 Tests)
12. Samu Kerevi (34 Tests)
13. Len Ikitau (5 Tests)
14. Andrew Kellaway (5 Tests)
15. Tom Banks (17 Tests)
16. Feleti Kaitu’u*
17. James Slipper (106 Tests)
18. Taniela Tupou (31 Tests)
19. Rob Leota*
20. Pete Samu (11 Tests)
21. Nic White (38 Tests)
22. Reece Hodge (49 Tests)
23. Jordan Petaia (10 Tests)
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.