Cooper key to unlocking finals for Rebels: Genia

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rebels halfback Will Genia says flyhalf Quade Cooper could be the key to unlocking an historic finals appearance in 2019.

The Rebels missed out on their first finals berth in 2018 on points difference, after a final round loss to the Highlanders, but that won’t be considered a pass mark this season.

"It was really disappointing to miss out just by points differential last year," Genia said.

"It's definitely something that stung the club last year and hopefully we can build on that momentum and make history, getting into the finals for the first time."

Cooper’s addition at flyhalf brings invaluable experience to the side that leaned on utility Reece Hodge and Jack Debreczeni in the playmaking spot last season.

Genia said Cooper, with whom he has a long and storied association, could be the missing link for the side.

“A little bit,” he said.

“That was probably the one position we didn't have depth or have a traditional player in that position so I guess to an extent he is the missing link.

“It makes a difference when you have someone who's a natural 10 who plays that position and understands his role and his biggest strength is his organisation which is probably something we lacked a bit last year.

“Essentially, he communicates the game as we're playing, telling guys where to be, how he wants it to shape up and whatnot so I think he'll make a huge difference to our team.”

Cooper and Genia are just two of the names in a stacked Rebels backline that also includes captain Dane Haylett-Petty and Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete.

The Rebels are already tapping into their enviable depth for round one with Hodge to be given until Wednesday to prove he has overcome an ankle injury and new centre Campbell Magnay also working his way back from an injury he suffered playing for Suntory in Japan.

Haylett-Petty suffered a calf tweak in Wallabies camp but is expected to be fit to play against the Brumbies.

While their spine is almost unrivalled in depth, Genia was quick to point out the importance of their forward pack ahead of Friday night’s clash with the Rebels.

“I think we've got a very, very good forward pack,” he said.

“We’ve got guys like Matt Philip who was exceptional last year, who's had an amazing preseason and just the whole forward pack in general.

“I think they're looking forward to ripping in physically because they understand this game against the Brumbies will be a test from that perspective so as far as the backline goes, we can't do anything if they don't do the job for us up front.

“That's more so where the focus of the game is going to be.”

The Brumbies have shown off their attacking capabilities in the preseason but their trademark forward play proved the difference in their trials and Genia said he expected a similar pattern in Canberra this Friday night.

"Traditionally, they're a very good side when it comes to the set piece,” he said.

“They're talking about wanting to expand their game, play a bit more running rugby and things like that and they've got the players to do it  - guys like Tom Banks, Tevita (Kuridrani), Henry (Speight) and a pretty world-class forward pack, it's actually a Wallaby forward pack.

“They'll have the tools to do it but I think under pressure if things don't go their way they can revert back to their strength which is being physical and dominating the set piece so we've definitely got a big challenge on our hands.

The Rebels take on the Brumbies at GIO Stadium on Friday February 15, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via