Ashley-Cooper to make Australia return against Italy
PADUA, Italy (AP) — Adam Ashley-Cooper will start his first test for Australia in more than two years as one of seven changes to the team to face Italy on Saturday.
It will be Ashley-Cooper’s 117th test, making him Australia’s third-most capped player.
The Wallabies lost to Wales 9-6 last weekend, their eighth loss in 11 tests.
Coach Michael Cheika also handed debuts to fullback Jordan Petaia and scrumhalf Jake Gordon on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Petaia will become the third-youngest Australia debutant, behind Brian Ford and James O’Connor.
Italy captain Sergio Parisse was still struggling with a calf problem and will miss the test.
Coach Conor O’Shea made just one change to the team which beat Georgia 28-17 last weekend, with Jayden Hayward returning from injury. The fullback replaced Benetton Treviso teammate Luca Sperandio in the starting lineup.
Abraham Steyn continued to deputize for Parisse at No. 8, while hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini kept the captain’s armband.
“We have worked well ... we know that if we play our best rugby we can put them in difficulty,” O’Shea said. “Against Georgia we got an important win, but our focus since last Sunday has only been on our next opponents.”
Italy: Jayden Hayward, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Tommaso Castello, Mattia Bellini, Tommaso Allan, Tito Tebaldi; Abraham Steyn, Jake Polledri, Sebastian Negri, Dean Budd, Alessandro Zanni, Simone Ferrari, Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), Andrea Lovotti. Reserves: Luca Bigi, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Marco Fuser, Johan Meyer, Guglielmo Palazzani, Carlo Canna, Luca Morisi.
Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Jordan Petaia, Matt Toomua, Jake Gordon; David Pocock, Michael Hooper (captain), Jack Dempsey, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Folau Faingaa, Scott Sio. Reserves: Tatafu Polata-Nau, Jermaine Ainsley, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Pete Samu, Will Genia, Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty.