St.George Queensland Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper will earn his 100th cap for Queensland this Friday, after being named to start in the Reds side to meet the Blues in Auckland.
Cooper made his debut for the Reds in 2007 as an 18-year-old and is now in his eighth season of Super Rugby.
In that time, Cooper has grown to become an integral member of the Reds attack, with highlights including a Super Rugby title in 2011, captaining his state against the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and becoming Queensland’s highest-ever points scorer in Super Rugby after breaking Elton Flatley’s record earlier this year.
Cooper said he was pleased to reach the 100-cap milestone, but that a win on Friday night would make it all the more special.
“I’m very proud. To play one game for Queensland is a great honour, so to get the opportunity to stay in the game long enough to play 100 games, I’m very fortunate,” Cooper said.
“First and foremost for me is focusing on getting a win for the team. I’d much rather the team success come before my own accolades.”
Reds head coach Richard Graham has made four changes to the starting lineup for the Eden Park-meet with the Blues.
In the forwards, Greg Holmes and Liam Gill return to the starting lineup. Holmes is back at tighthead prop, with Ben Daley moving to the bench and James Slipper shifting to loosehead. Gill is back for the first time since injuring his hamstring five weeks ago and will start at openside flanker, with Beau Robinson moving to the bench.
In the backs, Rod Davies and Anthony Fainga’a return to the starting XV, with Jamie-Jerry Taulagi and Ben Lucas to the bench. Davies will go to left wing and Fainga’a to inside centre, with Mike Harris moving to fullback.
“We’ve made the changes based on performance but also on the team we’re playing,” Graham said.
“Their scrum is very experienced with an All Blacks front row. We have made the appropriate changes we feel necessary to give us a strong platform in the early stages.
“Beau (Robinson) has performed very well for us as our starting openside, however with Liam’s form prior to injury and as a genuine lineout option, I thought it was important to bring him straight into the starting side.
“With Anthony Fainga’a back in the midfield, his defence and work ethic is well regarded and he’ll do a very good job for us there. Mike Harris at fullback provides us with a big body in the back three and also an alternative link to Quade.
“For this game, Rod’s inclusion in the back three demonstrates a need for experience and he brings genuine speed.”
Graham added the team needed little motivation to secure an important victory and mark Cooper’s 100th cap with success.
“It’s a special achievement for Quade. He displays an enormous amount of pride in the Reds jersey and has thrilled Queensland fans for a number of years now,” Graham said.
“We all understand the importance of this game in the context of our season.”
The Reds and Blues have met 19 times in Super Rugby, with Queensland winning 10 and drawing one. The Reds have won their last four clashes with the Blues, with the most recent a 21-11 victory at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play Blues in Auckland:
1. James Slipper
2. Saia Fainga’a
3. Greg Holmes
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (C)
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Liam Gill
8. Jake Schatz
9. Will Genia (VC)
10. Quade Cooper
11. Rod Davies
12. Anthony Fainga’a
13. Ben Tapuai
14. Chris Feauai-Sautia
15. Mike Harris
16. James Hanson
17. Ben Daley
18. Jono Owen
19. Ed O’Donoghue
20. Beau Robinson
21. Nick Frisby
22. Ben Lucas
23. Jamie-Jerry Taulag
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