Quade Cooper stepped out on Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, a different player to the one that left Aussie shores a year ago.
It wasn’t quite Quade 2.0 against the Springboks, rather an enhanced prototype of the mercurial flyhalf, with a dose of maturity mixed in.
In a good mindset after an injury-free season to this point, something that has been a rarity for Cooper in the past, the returned Wallabies playmaker said he had managed to add thin
“When I went away before that all I knew was the Reds,” he said.
“Not knowing anything else, not knowing any style of play, but also for me, while I was overseas understanding how I thought about my rugby, I was able to add things to my game.
“I was able to think about things that I hadn’t necessarily challenged myself with, so you come back with a mindset of being able to compare things towards each other.
“That’s made myself better for it, a lot clearer in what I want and how I go about it.”
With two Tests under his belt in his Australian return, Cooper said his mind was in ideal shape.
“For me, I haven’t played a lot of football over the past two, three years, so just being able to get a little bit of consistency in terms of training, although I haven’t played many games this year, I’ve spent the whole year training, being fit and healthy and ready to go,” he said.
“So for me just being ready to go and spend time on the training paddock. I feel in a very good spot at the moment.”
His newfound combination with Bernard Foley appears to have life in it, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika pleased with the improvement from the two in their second outing, in Brisbane,
Cheika was keen to persist with the pairing after the Wellington Test and said he saw more balance from them in Brisbane.
“I thought their partnership improved again this week,” he said.
I still think it’s got room for more improvement but I think they played different roles. They complemented each other well.
“Bernard played up there a little flatter and ran a little bit more with the ball as well.
“He’s probably been a bit too deep to attack in the last couple of weeks.”
Cooper said consistency had been helpful but wasn’t sure if the duo would be a long-term fix.
“There’s a lot of factors, we had a lot cleaner ball, the forwards were doing a lot better job, providing a good platform, so myself, Foley were having a better time together,” he said.
“But it’s like anything, the more training sessions you get together, the more games you get to play together, the better the combinations start to flow.
“Whether Cheik persists with it or not, it’s good from our point of view being able to sit in the same position and train throughout the week and prepare for a game knowing that where you stand.”
It seems likely the two will get another start in Perth, when the Wallabies take on Argentina.