SYDNEY (Reuters) -Quade Cooper will play his first test for more than four years on Sunday after being named as Wallabies flyhalf for the Rugby Championship test against South Africa on Australia's Gold Coast.
The 33-year-old playmaker, whose last international start was against Argentina in October 2016, comes in for youngster Noah Lolesio, who has worn the number 10 shirt for Australia's six tests this year.
Coach Dave Rennie has rolled the dice on Cooper after three successive losses to the All Blacks over the last couple of months, the last two giving the Wallabies the worst possible start to their Rugby Championship campaign.
With Lolesio needing a rest, James O'Connor back in the squad after injury but not yet fit enough to play, and Matt Toomua no longer considered an option at flyhalf, Rennie said Cooper was the best option to get his backline moving.
"We're basing selections on what we see," Rennie told reporters from Queensland on Friday.
"There's certainly no panic, we're trying to grow our game and we think he's the right man to try and get us around the park."
New Zealand-born Cooper, who left Australia to play in Japan in 2019, said he was a different man from the player who was once considered as disruptive as he was undoubtedly talented.
"It's exciting, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be back," the 70-cap back told reporters.
"I've put a lot of work into being a better man each day and that in itself, football aside, has been a great journey. Being a better man has been the focus for the last few years."
Rennie made two changes in the pack with Angus Bell awarded his first test start at loosehead prop and Izack Rodda stepping up from the bench to partner Matt Philip in the second row in place of the injured Darcy Swain.
Hooker Feleti Kaitu'u and flanker Rob Leota look set to make their test debuts after being named on the bench.
World champions South Africa named their team on Wednesday, recalling number eight Duane Vermeulen for his first test since his Man of the Match performance in the 2019 World Cup final.
Team: 15-Tom Banks, 14-Andrew Kellaway, 13-Len Ikitau, 12-Samu Kerevi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Tate McDermott, 8-Rob Valetini, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Lachie Swinton, 5-Matt Philip, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Folau Fainga'a, 1-Angus Bell
Replacements: 16-Feleti Kaitu'u, 17-James Slipper, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Rob Leota, 20-Pete Samu, 21-Nic White, 22-Reece Hodge, 23-Jordan Petaia
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)