Quade Cooper has watched Duncan Paia’aua’s progress closely in 2015, going from the slowest Queensland back to a fearless competitor and he's hoping for one thing from his Barbarians counterpart on Saturday.
Cooper’s broken collarbone at the start of 2015 opened the door for Paia’aua’s first flyhalf stint, but he’ll be an entirely different prospect when the pair go head-to-head at Allianz.
“When he got to the Reds, he came with not much confidence, he didn’t really understand the game and it wasn’t necessarily coached out of him, but people didn’t really encourage t just go out there and play,” he said.
“Having a guy like that outside you, you can just give him the ball and something will happen. He’s very strong, he’s athletic, he’s got speed now.
“Those are all the attributes that you want from a teammate. The biggest thing he has to offer is his courage and heart.
“When he’s out on the field there’s no one more fearless than him. That’s a great guy to be playing with and not so much to be playing against.
The pair have been in contact this year, trading banter about a season-long running competition between the duo, Cooper hoping he doesn’t get shown up in a foot race.
“I always call him the slowest back – he used to be the slowest back in the Reds for the last few years but then I don’t know where he’s found this pace that he’s all of a sudden got this year,” he said.
“We were just having a little bit of banter about that and hopefully he doesn’t burn me tomorrow.”
Cooper will steer the Barbarians in Sydney on Saturday against the Wallabies and while Test coach Michael Cheika said the match would be somewhat of an audition, Cooper wasn’t hanging on the possibility.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” he said.
“I’m just enjoying waking up in my own bed, go to training that I’m enjoying and enjoying the games on the weekend so I’m not thinking about anything that could or that’s out of my control.
“When we’re talking about the NRC, there’s still a few more games for that.
“I'll be watching closely tomorrow when the boys play NSW Country, hopefully we’ll win and be able to have a finals run in the next two weeks.”
Wallabies captain for the game, Nick Phipps, will be combining with Paia’aua for the first time on Saturday and said the match was a chance for the 22-year-old to prove himself to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
“Coming in as a 12 he obviously loves that contact, that nitty-gritty stuff and he's got that running game we're going to really rely on on the weekend,” he said.
“His role is to be in there and lead the attack around and let some of the other boys get their opportunities and when he gets his opportunities I want him to take them.
“I want him to show Cheik that he's got the ability to be the point man that pivot for the squad at the moment."
The Wallabies take on the Barbarians on Saturday October 28, kicking off at 3pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Network Ten.