Cheika breaks silence, talks up Quade's Wallabies chances

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Quade Cooper will be in “strong contention” for Wallabies selection if he continues the good form displayed for the Rebels in round one, according to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Speaking on a short video released on the Wallabies social media channels, Cheika broke a three-month silence dating back to the end of the Spring Tour and the end of a poor 4-11 season.

Cheika survived as Test coach in the weeks afterward but the Wallabies staff underwent major renovation, with Scott Johnson added above the coach as a Director of Rugby, an independent selector appointed in Mick O’Connor and assistant coach Stephen Larkham axed. 

Focussing on Super Rugby issues in the social media video, Cheika did not address Johnson or the changes but it is believed a second video to be published on Saturday addresses Wallabies issues.

It’s unknown when Cheika will speak publicly but Johnson is due to start his role at the end of March, after completing his Six Nations duties with Scotland.

Cheika said he’d been impressed with Cooper’s form in the Rebels’ round one win over the Brumbies and opened the door for the Reds discard to push his way back in the Wallabies ranks.

"He played a smart game in the first game out, he played nice and flat and he was very active in organising the play. But also looking to attack himself a little bit …always with the flair that he brings to the game,” Cheika said on the video.

"It is just a matter of him getting more games in the saddle, I think. More opportunities to play at the highest level against the best teams. 

"There is great opportunity tonight for him, and just keep banging it. And with that, I have no doubt he will come into strong contention for selection.”

Cheika also praised the early season work of Jordan Petaia, Brumbies halfback Joe Powell and Lukhan Lalakaia-Soto, in his opening game for the Reds in Dunedin.

“And also somewhere there who we haven’t maybe seen as much of, or had in camp, in Angus Scott-Young,” Cheika said.

"Really good work ethic and tough around the ball.

"There are a few players that I have seen in different positions: some who have been on the radar, off the radar and now back on it, and some who are just new to Super Rugby and are starting to get their hands dirty in the game and have shown there could be some potential coming through this year.”

Talking about the relationship between the Wallabies program and the Super Rugby franchises, Cheika said there had been a good working dynamic, based on the World Cup-year resting system agreed to between the parties.

"There has been a bit of give and take. It is not always everyone on the same hymn sheet immediately, but we are all taking consideration of everyone’s objectives for the year,” Cheika said in the video.

"What we did was we got a list of players and we said ok,  based on what they’d done over the last few years and particularly last year, we think these players would benefit from two weeks of … it’s not rest, it’s more reloading.

"Training, having a good chance to get more fitness under their belt. Reloading week of sorts. Because they have two byes in the season to rest anyway,

"So some players with two, some players with one, some with none - because we think need a good hard season under their belt - based on where we think we are going to end up game wise.

"The teams have come back to us themselves, positioning where they think they might be in a perfect world. But the world is not perfect. Players get injured, different breaks. It has got to be fluid. 

"We want players to just be focussed on the next game and get themselves ready for the next game, and then we’ll manage that in the background for them.

So far that has been working well around the conversations. I have had coaches already ringing up and look to change plans, and we have done that. And we are looking at doing that with other ones. It might suit them, because the season changes every week, wins, losses. 

"Injuries, how many minutes they play, just so we getting the outcome of the player being in the best possible condition, both for them and for their Super Rugby and also for the Wallabies when the time comes to get ready for the Rugby Championship and then the Bledisloe Cup and then the World Cup."