Australia captain Michael Hooper fit to face All Blacks in Rugby Championship opener

Australia captain Michael Hooper has been cleared for Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Prop Scott Sio and winger Dane Haylett-Petty have also been given the green light for the Sydney Test and are named in Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s 28-man squad.

Australia vs New Zealand

August 18, 2018, 10:30am

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The squad, trimmed down from 36, includes only two uncapped players in outside backs Tom Banks and Jack Maddocks, with Rory Arnold, Curtis Rona and Sefa Naivalu cut from the preliminary training squad.

With Rona omitted, utility back Reece Hodge is likely to start in the outside centre position vacated by injured duo Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani.

Injuries aside, Cheika says he had all but settled on a squad for the tournament and beyond, with the World Cup in Japan little more than a year away.

“We’ll have some extra players in there on Monday and Tuesday, so we can get our training done and then I just think that I want to have a bit more focus on the group that’s going to play the [All Blacks] game,” he said.

“I want the guys that are not playing in that given week to go and play some footy, whether it be club or NRC [National Rugby Championship], depending on the time of year.

“I just think that little bit of extra focus on a smaller group of players in there can build our alignment and cohesion.

“Everyone’s focused on the one task, everyone knows what their role is.”

South Africa vs Argentina

August 18, 2018, 3:30pm

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The Wallabies beat the All Blacks in their last encounter in October but have not held the Bledisloe Cup, the annual trophy contested between the teams, since 2002.

New Zealand are bidding for a third successive Rugby Championship title. Australia last won the tournament in 2015.

Australia squad

Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Adam Coleman, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (capt), Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou.

Backs: Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Matt Toomua.