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Wallabies Pick Beale at Fly-Half; Carter Returns for All Blacks

Australia picked Kurtley Beale to replace injured fly-half Quade Cooper in this weekend’s Rugby Championship match against South Africa in Pretoria, while Dan Carter returns for New Zealand’s game in Argentina.

Beale’s selection at No. 10 for the first time in his 30th Test is the only change to the lineup that started the 23-19 win against Argentina on Sept. 15. Kane Douglas retained his spot at lock as Sitaleki Timani failed to prove he’s fully recovered from a hamstring strain, the team said in an e-mailed statement.

“The jersey number might be new but his role within the game won’t be,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said of Beale. “Although his season hasn’t been without challenge, Kurtley stepped up with his involvements on the Gold Coast, making a difference when he was on the field.”

With New Zealand needing one victory from its last two games to secure the inaugural title, the match at Loftus Versfeld in two days may decide who finishes in second place. The All Blacks top the standings with 16 points ahead of Australia on eight and South Africa on seven. Tournament newcomer Argentina has three points in last place.

The Australian Rugby Union said today it wrote to Cooper following his criticism of the Wallabies and Deans last week, which included accusations that a “toxic culture” had developed in the squad and that Deans and the other coaches did not allow him to play in the attacking style he wanted.

The Sydney-based governing body said that although it had written to Cooper in relation to the comments, which were made on Twitter and in interviews with local media, it had “no intention of conducting those discussions with Quade in the public arena.”

“To that end, we will be making no further comment at this stage,” the ARU said in a statement.

Carter, who’s scored a world record 1,318 points in 89 Tests, returns at fly-half for the All Blacks after missing the past two games with a calf injury. Scrum-half Aaron Smith replaces Piri Weepu in the only other change to the starting lineup as the world champions look to claim the title in La Plata.

“The team has really enjoyed the build-up in Buenos Aires and the culture that the country has to offer, but we know it will be down to business on Saturday and the team are excited by that challenge,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

AUSTRALIA: Berrick Barnes, Dominic Shipperley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Radike Samo, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Kane Douglas, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota Nau, Benn Robinson.

Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Anthony Fainga’a.

NEW ZEALAND: Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Julian Savea, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg.

Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

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