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Ashley-Cooper to play fourth World Cup as Wallabies name squad

By AFP
media Australian wing Adam Ashley-Cooper is to play in his fourth World Cup AFP/File

Veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper will play his fourth World Cup while uncapped teenager Jordan Petaia was a surprise pick to take part in his first in a 31-man Wallabies squad named Friday.

In a gamble, coach Michael Cheika opted for just two half-backs in Will Genia and Nic White, meaning Brumbies No.9 Joe Powell and the Waratahs' Nick Phipps miss out.

Another notable absentee was veteran hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, but flanker David Pocock, who hasn't played for seven months after injuring his calf, was named, along with Bernard Foley and Tevita Kuridrani who were overlooked in recent games.

"We've become a really tight group and it was a very difficult process in picking only 31 players, but I know each player selected will travel to Japan with the full support of those team mates who won’t board the flight," said Cheika.

"We have worked really hard at building each week and each game so far this season, and play a brand of rugby that Australia would be proud of and get every player contributing towards the outcome."

"It's also important that we select a squad that will handle the tournament play and our draw in particular at the Rugby World Cup, as well as maintain a strong competition for places in the team," he added.

The largely predictable line-up, captained by Michael Hooper, boasts 1,406 caps of Test experience, 200 more than the squad for the 2015 World Cup.

Eighteen players will be tasting World Cup action for the first time, in contrast to 35-year-old Ashley-Cooper, who will become only the second Wallaby, after George Gregan, to play in four.

The dynamic Petaia, just 19 but who can play from the wing or outside centre, becomes the youngest Wallaby ever to feature at the tournament.

His inclusion is a risk, having missed much of the Super Rugby season with injury.

The Queenslander is uncapped but is expected to play in Australia's final warm-up Test against Samoa in Sydney on September 7, where Pocock is also tipped to make his return.

- Extra edge -

"These next few weeks are about building and adding that little extra edge as a squad and we'll be working hard to make sure we deliver on the qualities we want people to see when we run out on the field in Japan," said Cheika.

The Wallabies, beaten in the final of the last World Cup by New Zealand but now ranked just sixth in the world, have had mixed fortunes so far this year, losing to South Africa in the Rugby Championship before beating Argentina.

They then stunned New Zealand 47-26 in Perth this month, boosting their confidence.

But that was quickly shattered when New Zealand thrashed them 36-0 in the return leg of the Bledisloe Cup in Auckland last weekend.

Despite the crushing defeat, their form has been an improvement on 2018, when they played 13 Tests and tasted victory in just four in one of their worst seasons in decades.

In Japan, the Wallabies face a tough Pool D that includes world number one Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay.

They open their campaign against Fiji in Sapporo on September 21 ahead of a crunch clash with Wales a week later.

Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Folau Fainga'a, Michael Hooper (capt), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese

Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, James O'Connor, Jordan Petaia, Matt Toomua, Nic White

 
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