Australia v France, 1st Test
James Slipper ready to sink boot into France
June 6, 2014
James Slipper is on target to become one of the most-capped players in rugby history © Getty Images

James Slipper feels old beyond his years as he prepares to play his 50th Test for Australia, against France at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, but he expects to be around for a few more seasons yet.

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Slipper will reach his half-century of caps aged just 25, six years younger than Wycliff Palu who will reach the milestone in Brisbane. Palu has played for nine seasons in reaching 50 caps, while the Queensland Reds front-rower has rush to the same mark in four years.

"I am young but I don't feel young," Slipper told AAP. "I might be 25 but it feels like 30. It's a lot of footy, nearly 115 professional games in nearly four years ..."

Slipper's resilience after making his Test debut aged just 21 has him well on track to become one of the most-capped players in world rugby. George Smith was the last Wallabies player to play 50 Tests so quickly reaching the milestone when he was just a month younger.

"Look at him," Palu said of Slipper. "I debuted in '06 and it's taken a long time to get my 50. He'll be looking at 100-plus."

Smith finished with 111 Test caps, while Nathan Shape currently stands as Australia's most-capped Test forward with 116. England's Justin Leonard holds the world record for a front-rower, playing 119 Tests, but he registered only 27 caps by his 25th birthday.

Slipper had to bide most of his time on the bench in his early years - unlike Smith and Sharpe - but he nailed down the No.1 jersey in a breakthrough 2013 by starting all 12 games under Ewen McKenzie. The coach - himself, a 51-Test player who debuted at 25 and retired at 32 - is another to marvel at Slipper, but more for his mobility and work-rate.

It's at the scrum where props earn their keep, though, and the oft-maligned Australia pack can go into the three-Test series with France confident in Slipper's ability against veteran tight-head Nicholas Mas.

Slipper is relishing the challenge after strong efforts against Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to silence critics late last year.

"It's going to be a big day at the office," Slipper said. "They will look at their scrum as their strength and probably see ours as our weakness. We're happy with that, we're used to that."


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