Kepu, Douglas in Wallabies team

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iol spt nov8 Kepu AFP Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu, pictured, and lock Kane Douglas will get their first starting spots in the Australia team when the Wallabies bid to continue their formidable record against France.

Paris – Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu and lock Kane Douglas will get their first starting spots in the Australia team when the Wallabies bid to continue their formidable record against France on Saturday.

Kepu and Douglas both featured from the bench in last month’s drawn Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand that halted the All Blacks' 16-Test winning run.

But the duo have been rewarded for their performances in Brisbane.

Other changes from the line-up that night see Rob Simmons join the bench in place of the injured Sitaleki Timani, while Berrick Barnes returns from injury to take over from Drew Mitchell as one of two backline replacements.

“Obviously you adjust things a little bit to cater for a particular opposition but we have had the benefit of some continuity leading into this match, which hasn't always been the case for us this year,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said.

“There was a lot of good stuff to come out of our last outing, but there were also plenty of things that we could have done better.

“We've talked about that in the time since. While the effort of the players couldn't be faulted (on that occasion), the accuracy of our execution failed us at times, and will need to be better for the challenges ahead if we are to achieve the consistency of performance we are seeking.”

Success at the Stade de France on Saturday, with a 2000 GMT kick-off, would see the Wallabies tie Australia's previous best winning sequence against France: the six wins on the run achieved between 1993-2000.

Waratahs winger Adam Ashley-Cooper and Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore, who returns from injury via the bench, are the only players involved on Saturday who have featured in all of the previous wins achieved by the Wallabies against France during the current sequence, which began in 2008.

A further three players – skipper Nathan Sharpe, prop Benn Robinson and reserve back Barnes – featured in four of those five wins.

Coach Deans said that four key players not selected for the France match were back in training and most likely available for next weekend's Test against England at Twickenham.

Winger Digby Ioane (knee), flanker David Pocock (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) and lock Timani (lower back) have all been fully involved in training on their road back from injuries.

“Certainly we have more competition for places now than we have had at times previously, and that's only going to help drive standards and performance,” said Deans.

“The playing group are excited and they are looking forward to the game this weekend.

“The atmosphere at the Stade de France is always fantastic and the crowd vociferous: it's a great place to play the game, and a magnificent experience that none of the players who are fortunate enough to put on a jersey on the weekend will ever forget.”

Australia (15-1)

Mike Harris; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Nick Cummins; Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis; Nathan Sharpe (capt), Kane Douglas; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson

Replacements: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Paddy Ryan, Rob Simmons, Radike Samo, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Berrick Barnes – Sapa-AFP


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