Cooper back with Wallabies but likely only in mentoring role

·2 min read

SYDNEY (AP) — Playmaker and 70-test veteran Quade Cooper hasn’t played a test match for Australia since 2017 but he’s back in longshot consideration for a Wallabies spot.

Cooper had a coffee with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie last week in which he agreed to link up with the squad as a training partner before they fly out to New Zealand for Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship matches. He was named to the extended Australia squad on Sunday.

Flyhalf James O’Connor’s ongoing groin issues and the cancellation of the trans-Tasman bubble due to COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia led Rennie to make the decision to include Cooper. The Wallabies will travel to New Zealand on Friday for the first test in Auckland on Aug. 7.

The second test is expected to be brought forward to Aug. 14 and be played in New Zealand before the teams play in Perth, Western Australia on Aug. 21.

Cooper’s last test match four years ago wasn’t much of an appearance — a 15-minute cameo off the bench in a win over Italy. He fell out of favor under then-coach Michael Cheika and moved to Japan in 2019 to link up with the Kintetsu Liners.

The 33-year-old Cooper faces an uphill battle to return to the Wallabies in a test match. Rennie said Noah Lolesio is the No.1 playmaker, while Matt To’omua, Reece Hodge, Duncan Paia’aua, and O’Connor (when fit) are other options.

Cooper knows his Wallabies recall might not lead to any game time but he’s eager to help out in any way he can. He was energetic and full of advice for his Wallabies teammates during training on Monday.

“You watch them go about their training,” Cooper said. “You see things in them that you can look back and say, ‘Yep, I can help out there. I see where I went wrong at that age’. For me that’s something I can provide . . . to be able to provide an example of what it takes.

“I know where I fell short in the past, and hopefully now I’m in a position can lead from the front in those areas and provide a little bit of guidance.”

Rennie feels Cooper’s inclusion in the Wallabies squad will prove to be invaluable.

“We have a young group of men who are impressionable, and ready for Quade to come in and be a positive influence,” Rennie said. “He’s highly motivated. We saw him running around this morning, and he looked as sharp as ever for me.”

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