Quade Cooper keen to guide young Wallabies

Mon, 26/07/2021, 06:00 am
Justin Chadwick - AAP
by Justin Chadwick - AAP
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and training squad member Quade Cooper spoke to media via Zoom from the Gold Coast.

Veteran playmaker Quade Cooper concedes he fell short in certain areas in the past and he's determined to use his surprise Wallabies recall to ensure Australia's brightest young rugby stars avoid the same fate.

Cooper had a coffee with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie last week in which he agreed to link up with the squad as a training partner before they flew out to New Zealand.

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But James O'Connor's ongoing groin issues and the cancellation of the trans-Tasman bubble led Rennie to make the decision to include Cooper in the main squad for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series.

The Wallabies will fly to New Zealand on Friday for the first Test in Auckland on August 7.

The second Test is expected to be brought forward to August 14 and be played on All Blacks home soil, before the teams face off in Perth on August 21.

Cooper last played a Test for Australia in 2017 - a 15-minute cameo off the bench in a win over Italy.

He fell out of favour under then-coach Michael Cheika and moved to Japan in 2019 to link up with the Kintetsu Liners.

The 33-year-old has matured in leaps and bounds over the past three years, and has used the long COVID-19 enforced layoffs to rebuild his body.

Cooper faces an uphill battle to earn game time in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

Rennie said Noah Lolesio is the No.1 playmaker, while Matt To'omua, Reece Hodge, Duncan Paia'aua, and O'Connor (when fit) are other options.

Cooper knows his Wallabies recall might not lead to any game time but he's eager to help out in any way he can.

The 70-Test veteran has taken his training and workout standards to new levels and he was full of voice during drills with his Wallabies teammates on Monday.

"You watch them go about their training," Cooper said. 

"You see things in them that you can look back and say, 'Yep, I can help out there. I see where I went wrong at that age'.

"For me that's something I can provide … to be able to provide an example of what it takes. 

"I know where I fell short in the past, and hopefully now I'm in a position I can lead from the front in those areas and provide a little bit of guidance."

Working with Lolesio is something that particularly excites Cooper.

"I think we can continue to help each other," Cooper said. 

"Even myself at 33 I'm there trying to learn, trying to soak up as much information as I can. 

"Watching the way he went through those Test matches (against France) – he's a phenomenal player, and I know he's going to be a great player and a great asset to Australian rugby."

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Cooper has been training hard with a '5am club' since returning to Australia a couple of months ago.

He has also ensured his skills have stayed sharp by joining his two younger brothers for training at their rugby league club in Brisbane.

Rennie feels Cooper's inclusion in the Wallabies squad will prove to be invaluable.

"We have a young group of men who are impressionable, and ready for Quade to come in and be a positive influence," Rennie said. 

"He's highly motivated. We saw him running around this morning, and he looked as sharp as ever for me."

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