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Sekope Kepu starts for Australia

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Sekope Kepu starts for Australia

Australia coach Robbie Deans has made three changes to his pack for the Test against France in Paris on Saturday night.

Prop Sekope Kepu, lock Kane Douglas and back-rower Dave Dennis are all handed starts for the opening fixture of the Wallabies' European tour, taking the places of James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani and Scott Higginbotham respectively.

Slipper drops to the bench while Timani (back) and Higginbotham (suspended) were unavailable. Reds' lock Rob Simmons comes onto the bench in the absence of Timani, while Berrick Barnes returns from injury to earn a place among the substitutes.

Stephen Moore is also on the bench and will overtake Jeremy Paul as Australia's most-capped hooker should he win his 73rd cap at the Stade de France.

Lock Timani, wing Digby Ioane (knee), flanker David Pocock (knee), prop Ben Alexander (wrist) will all be in contention to face England at Twickenham a week Saturday but the Trophee des Bicentenaries clash comes too soon for them.

"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," Deans said.

"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."

Kurtley Beale retains the fly-half jersey with Mike Harris again at full-back while veteran lock Nathan Sharpe skippers the side at the start of his final tour with the national side.

Australia have won their last five meetings with the French, and their previous visit to Paris ended in a thumping 59-16 victory in November 2010.

Australia team: M Harris (Reds); A Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs), B Tapuai (Reds), P McCabe (Brumbies), N Cummins (Western Force); K Beale (Melbourne Rebels), N Phipps (Melbourne Rebels); B Robinson (Waratahs), T Polota Nau (Waratahs), S Kepu (Waratahs), K Douglas (Waratahs), N Sharpe (Western Force, captain), D Dennis (Waratahs), M Hooper (Waratahs), W Palu (Waratahs).

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