MELBOURNE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Factbox on the teams in Super Rugby’s Australian Conference (in order of position last season):
NEW SOUTH WALES WARATAHS (Sydney)
Coach: Daryl Gibson (fourth year)
Captain: Michael Hooper
Last year’s finish: Third (W-9, D-1, L-6)
Best performance: Champions (2014)
World Cup watch: Utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper is back from Europe and seeking to become only the second Wallaby to play in four World Cups. A standout of the Wallabies’ unlikely run to the 2015 final in England, he broke back into Michael Cheika’s squad for the season-ending tour of Europe last year where he played his 117th test against Italy in Padova.
Forwards - Jack Dempsey, Damien Fitzpatrick, Ned Hanigan, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Ryan McCauley, Will Miller, Rory O’Connor, Tom Robertson, Le Roux Roets, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth, Lachlan Swinton, Patrick Tafa, Shambeckler Vui, Cody Walker, Michael Wells
Backs - Cameron Clark, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Lalakai Foketi, Israel Folau, John Folau, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Karmichael Hunt, Mack Mason, Alex Newsome, Nick Phipps, Curtis Rona, Mitch Short.
Coach: Dave Wessels (second year)
Captain: Dane Haylett-Petty
Last year’s finish: Ninth (W-7, L-9)
Best performance: Ninth, 2018
World Cup watch: Queensland Reds discard Quade Cooper spent last season playing third tier club rugby in Brisbane and remains the most polarising player in Australia, but his name always pops up around World Cup time. The nation’s chronic lack of flyhalves and Cheika’s pledge to pick anyone who shows good form in Super Rugby gives 70-test Cooper a realistic chance of making Japan, particularly if his revived halves partnership with old Queensland team mate Will Genia proves a major success.
Forwards - Jermaine Ainsley, Ben Daley, Mees Erasmus, Pone Fa’amausili, Tetera Faulkner, Fereti Sa’aga, Sam Talakai, Robbie Abel, Anaru Rangi, Hugh Roach, Jordan Uelese, Adam Coleman, Esei Ha’angana, Trevor Hosea, Sam Jeffries, Matt Philip, Angus Cottrell, Richard Hardwick, Ross Haylett-Petty, Luke Jones, Rob Leota, Isi Naisarani, Brad Wilkin
Backs - Will Genia, Harrison Goddard, Michael Ruru, Quade Cooper, Matt Toomua, Tom English, Reece Hodge, Bill Meakes, Sione Tuipulotu, Marika Koroibete, Campbell Magnay, Semisi Tupou, Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks
ACT BRUMBIES (Canberra)
Coach: Dan McKellar (second year)
Captain: Christian Lealiifano
Last year: 10th (W-7, L-9)
Best performance: Champions (2001, 2004)
World Cup watch: Prop James Slipper, another one of Brad Thorn’s cast-offs at the Queensland Reds, is fit, happy and keen for redemption after battling injury, depression and drug problems. The 29-year-old played the last of his 86 caps in 2016 but was at both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, and has always been highly rated by Cheika.
Forwards - Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Tom Cusack, Murray Douglas, Blake Enever, Folau Fainga’a, Vunipola Fifita, Ben Hyne, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Josh Mann-Rea, Lachlan McCaffrey, Connal McInerney, David Pocock, Tom Ross, Pete Samu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Rob Valetini.
Backs - Tom Banks, Mack Hansen, Wharenui Hawera, Len Ikitau, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Bayley Kuenzle, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Noah Lolesio, Ryan Lonergan, Matt Lucas, Andrew Muirhead, Chance Peni, Joe Powell, Toni Pulu, Irae Simone, Henry Speight, Lausii Taliauli, Tom Wright.
QUEENSLAND REDS (Brisbane)
Coach: Brad Thorn (second year)
Captain: Samu Kerevi
Last year: 13th (W-6, L-10)
Best performance: Champions (2011)
World Cup watch: Young tighthead prop Taniela Tupou, nicknamed the ‘Tongan Thor’, played in 10 of the Wallabies’ 13 tests in 2018 and was named the team’s rookie of the year.
The 135-kg 22-year-old is also deceptively quick for his size and skilled with ball in hand but will need to improve his scrummaging to dislodge the likes of Sekope Kepu and Allan Alaalatoa from the starting front row.
Forwards - Angus Blyth, Feao Fotuaika, Scott Higginbotham, Harry Hockings, Harry Hoopert, Adam Korczyk, Gavin Luka, Efi Ma’afu, Alex Mafi, Fraser McReight, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakai-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Caleb Timu, Taniela Tupou, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright.
Backs - Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu, Will Eadie, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Jack Hardy, Bryce Hegarty, Samu Kerevi, Tate McDermott, Matt McGahan, Sefa Naivalu, Duncan Paia’aua, Jordan Petaia, Moses Sorovi, Hamish Stewart, Teti Tela, Aidan Toua, James Tuttle
Coach: Tony Brown (first year)
Captains: Craig Millar, Michael Little
Last year: 15th (W-3, L-13)
Best performance: 15th (2018)
World Cup watch: Flyhalf Yu Tamura is in line for his second World Cup with Jamie Joseph’s Japan but will have to battle New Zealander Hayden Parker, who scored 136 points last season, for a starting spot in the Sunwolves.
How coach Tony Brown juggles the pair may reflect whether Japanese rugby sees the Sunwolves as a standalone side or a pathway for the national team.
Forwards - Asaeli Ai Valu, Keita Inagaki, Koo Ji-won, Pauliasi Manu, Craig Millar, Sam Prattley, Hencus van Wyk, Alex Woonton, Hiroshi Yamashita, Jaba Bregvadze, Shota Horie, Yusuke Niwai, Atsushi Sakate, Nathan Vella, Mark Abbott, Grant Hattingh, Uwe Helu, Kazuki Himeno, James Moore, Kara Pryor, Tom Rowe, Luke Thompson, Wimpie van der Walt, Ben Gunter, Michael Leitch, Dan Pryor, Ed Quirk, Hendrik Tui, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Lappies Labuschagne
Backs - Jamie Booth, Yutaka Nagare, Kaito Shigeno, Fumiaki Tanaka, Keisuke Uchida, Rikiya Matsuda, Hayden Parker, Yu Tamura, Phil Burleigh, Shane Gates, Michael Little, Ryoto Nakamura, Rene Ranger, Will Tupou, Kenki Fukuoka, Lomano Lemeki, Semisi Masirewa, Hosea Saumaki, Jason Emery, Jamie Henry, Gerhard van den Heever.
Compiled by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury