Twickenham clash special for Wallabies' flanker

RUSSELL JACKSON
Last updated 18:36 14/11/2012
Michael Hooper
Getty Images
BIG SHOES: Michael Hooper has replaced the injured David Pocock at openside flanker for the Wallabies.

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There's every chance Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper will be more English than at least some of the men in white he'll face at Twickenham this weekend.

The 21-year-old, Sydney-born Hooper, qualifies to play for England through his father David.

But on Saturday (Sunday NZT) he'll be running out for Australia with his father cheering for the Wallabies from the stands.

It will be Hooper's first test in his father's country of birth.

David left England when he was 24 and Hooper insists there's no risk of him not supporting Australia, who like England, have foreign-born players.

"He's an Aussie citizen, so I don't think he'd be allowed in the house otherwise," Hooper said.

Hooper's grandparents will also be at Twickenham as will his English uncle.

The No 7 will continue in his role deputising for champion flanker David Pocock, who was expected to make his long-awaited return from a knee injury against England but was ruled out early in the week with a calf strain.

Hooper has been outstanding for Australia since getting his chance when Pocock injured his knee against the All Blacks in August and says the team is looking forward to bouncing back after last week's 33-6 European tour opening loss to France.

"We're going to really bring it and are excited about this game. It should be a great game," Hooper said.

"It's all about this weekend and making history. It's a great rivalry between England and Australia and Twickenham is a great stadium.

"Their tails will be up after getting so many points on the board against Fiji.

"There were 80,000 yelling at us in Paris last weekend and it was a great atmosphere.

"This weekend will be no different, so it was good to get that new experience out of the way."

Coach Robbie Deans is expected to make up to four changes to the run on side beaten up by France when he names the team on Thursday (Friday NZT) in London.

Tighthead prop Ben Alexander is set to replace Sekope Kepu while enforcer Sitaleki Timani comes in for Kane Douglas in the second-row after he was ruled with a knee injury.

In the backs, Berrick Barnes is set to replace Mike Harris at fullback while Digby Ioane, who is coming back from a knee injury, is expected to force out Nick Cummins.

Both Pocock and Douglas are expected to be fine to play Italy in Florence on Saturday week.

If there is a further problem with either Douglas or Pocock that would pave the way for stand-by player Scott Higginbotham to join the squad.

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Likely Wallabies starting team: Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe (capt), Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.

- AAP

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