Return to the lion’s den for Cooper as All Blacks seek revenge

New Zealand aiming to atone for last week’s defeat as they host Australia at Eden Park

Australia’s Quade Cooper will be playing for his World Cup place when he faces New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday. Photo: Andrews Larrovere/AFP/Getty

Australia’s Quade Cooper will be playing for his World Cup place when he faces New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday. Photo: Andrews Larrovere/AFP/Getty

 

Victor Vito and Quade Cooper are both playing for their World Cup places when the All Blacks and Wallabies clash in the defining Bledisloe Cup encounter at Eden Park tomorrow.

Vito had been given the opportunity to push for a late inclusion, just like he did in 2011, in the All Blacks’ World Cup squad. It would be likely to be at the expense of Liam Messam.

Wallabies flyhalf Cooper has also been given his final chance to impress Michael Cheika as he narrows down his squad before the deadline in two weeks’ time.

A university graduate of Classical History, Vito will undoubtedly smile at the irony of Cooper’s selection ahead of the likes of Bernard Foley or Matt Giteau in the pivotal role.

Cooper, it appears has been thrown to the proverbial lions in the Eden Park coliseum where an angry All Blacks side, beaten 27-19 last week in Sydney, will be out to not only retain the Bledisloe Cup, but send a message ahead of the World Cup.

The sword

The 27-year-old Cooper has also suffered numerous ignominies at the hands of his fellow New Zealanders, most notably during the 2011 World Cup semi-final at Eden Park.

Cooper began the game with a kickoff out on the full and ended it being dumped onto his backside by Richard Kahui, which typified a poor performance by the flyhalf. He was also routinely booed by the crowd throughout.

To top off his Eden Park nightmares, Cooper destroyed knee ligaments in the playoff for third against Wales a week later and since the reconstructive surgery has rarely looked the confidently mercurial player he once was.

Cooper was one of six changes made by Michael Cheika to the side that beat the All Blacks last week, with the coach abandoning the twin-openside-flanker tactic that worked so well at the Olympic Stadium.

David Pocock has dropped to the bench with specialist number eight Wycliff Palu given a chance to stretch his legs after a long season, while behemoth lock Will Skelton returns to the starting side.

The rangy Vito’s inclusion on the blindside of the scrum was something of a surprise by coach Steve Hansen, though he had promised all of his players a chance to push their World Cup credentials in the five Tests before the global showpiece. Hansen made just three changes to the side that were beaten last week, with Sam Whitelock replacing Luke Romano while Ma’a Nonu returns from injury to replace Sonny Bill Williams at inside centre

Captain Richie McCaw will play his world record 142nd test match at Eden Park, where they have not lost to the Wallabies since 1986.

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