The Courier-Mail

Loosies grab for medal

- IAIN PAYTEN DAMIEN STANNARD

FLANKERS Michael Hooper and David Pocock will throw down the challenge to 2014 winner Israel Folau for the John Eales Medal tonight.

The star trio, along with No.8 Ben McCalman and Wallabies 100-gamer Adam Ashley-Cooper, will battle for the highest individual prize in Australian rugby at a gala presentati­on in Sydney.

The John Eales Medal is determined by Wallabies players, who distribute 3-2-1 votes after each Test in the voting period.

This year covers eight Tests, from last year’s November Spring Tour through to the truncated 2015 Rugby Championsh­ip and the deciding Bledisloe Cup clash in New Zealand.

The five finalists named by the ARU are among the most consistent players in the Wallabies and Folau won the John Eales Medal last year on the back of an exceptiona­l season.

He has again been brilliant in 2014-15, compiling 100 running metres per game.

Hooper, who won

the award in 2013, is a serious chance for his second medal after rarely turning in a bad performanc­e. He also played the house down in the Rugby Championsh­ip but sharing starting duties with David Pocock could affect both.

Pocock has enjoyed a superb return from two years in the wilderness with injury.

Ashley-Cooper, arguably the most consistent Wallaby, is a versatile wing-centre respected by teammates while McCalman’s strong form on the Spring Tour will put him in contention early.

DUNCAN Paia’aua, once billed as the man to replace Quade Cooper, has had his path to Super Rugby reinvigora­ted by a positional switch.

The 20-year-old will make his first NRC start for Queensland Country against Sydney Stars at Leichhardt tonight.

Rather than slipping into the No.10 spot, which he had slotted into at the Reds when Cooper injured his shoulder in the pre-season, Paia’aua will play inside centre.

Country coach Jason Gilmore still views the league convert from Rockhampto­n as a long-term flyhalf option but he will use him as a playmaking choice beside Sam Greene.

A series of head knocks and an ankle injury have stalled his season but now Paia’aua, an Australia under-20 inside back, has a chance to show what he can do in the midfield.

“He has a good passing game, great feet and is very tough,” Gilmore said.

 ??  ?? SOAR POINT: Fabrice Lapierre flies on his way to silver at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing; and (inset) proudly flying the flag. Pictures: AP, Getty Images
SOAR POINT: Fabrice Lapierre flies on his way to silver at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing; and (inset) proudly flying the flag. Pictures: AP, Getty Images

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