Paia'aua eager to face Cooper

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Duncan Paiaaua will relish the chance to go head-to-head with Reds mentor Quade Cooper, if he is handed the playmaking reins for the Wallabies against the Barbarians.

Paia’aua is familiar with Cooper, having played outside him for much of the Super Rugby season, and was expecting a little bit of psychological warfare as the game approached.

“I think as we go closer I think I'll start to get a few texts from him, trying to get into my head but it'll be fun,” he said.

When Paia’aua first landed in rugby, it was to be a flyhalf, and when Cooper broke his collarbone in the 2015 preseason, the former Broncos U20s player had the first crack at being his replacement.

The 22-year-old suffered a concussion in that game and never really regained momentum in his debut year.

This season has been the best in his time at the Reds, stamping himself as a 12 for both the Reds and Queensland Country, with the return of Cooper and the emergence of Hamish Stewart adding more specialist 10s to the list.

He has been touted as a potential flyhalf option for the Wallabies this weekend, with Bernard Foley being rested, along with other 10 possibilities in Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge.

Paiaaua is in the mix along with Kyle Godwin and Karmichael Hunt, and though he is settled at inside centre, he wants to prove himself as that playmaking option.

“When the Reds brought me over, they brought me over as a 10 but I think I really found my feet as an inside centre this year and I think I've cemented a spot there at the moment,” he said.

“I think all the good 12s should be able to play 10 as well, so I think being able to play 12 the whole year this year has given me a better look at playing 10.”

This time around, having that experience at 12 has helped Paiaaua prepare for a switch back to flyhalf.

“Knowing where, as a 10, where you want the boys to be at 12 and you know where your 10 wants you to be (helps),” he said.

“I think just taking all that in, I think it's made this transition into 10 a lot easier than my first time I came in.”

A good impression against the Barbarians could lead to inclusion on the Spring Tour, as a development player most likely, and Paiaaua said he wouldn't be worried about where he eventually found his long-term spot.

“Obviously anyone would play anywhere for the Wallabies,” he said.

“I think as a player I'd prefer to play 12 but if they need me at 10, 12, 15 whatever I'll play wherever the coach needs me. ”

The Wallabies and Barbarians will name their teams for Saturday’s clash on Thursday.

The Wallabies take on the Barbarians on Saturday October 28, kicking off at 3pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Netowrk Ten.