Quade Cooper flattered by Wallabies captaincy talk
January 17, 2014
Quade Cooper played a key part of the Wallabies success in Europe, on and off the pitch © Getty Images

Wallabies Captaincy Candidates

  • Quade Cooper
  • Position: Fly-half
  • Super team: Queensland Reds
  • Age: 25
  • Tests: 50
  • Test debut: 2008
  • The mercurial five-eighth has shown more maturity since recalled to the side by Ewen McKenzie and appointed vice-captain after being on the outer with previous coach Robbie Deans over his "toxic" comment regarding the atmosphere among the Wallabies in late 2012.
  • Will Genia
  • Position: Scrum-half
  • Super team: Queensland Reds
  • Age: 25
  • Tests: 55
  • Test debut: 2009
  • He has captained Queensland and Australia, and is recognised as one of the world's great half-backs. He has a huge influence on the Wallabies' backline.
  • Scott Higginbotham
  • Position: Back-row
  • Super team: Rebels
  • Age: 27
  • Tests: 23
  • Test debut: 2010
  • Captained Melbourne Rebels in place of the injured Gareth Delve on several occasions in 2013, and the hard-running back-row has been appointed full-time captain for the coming year.
  • James Horwill
  • Position: Lock
  • Super team: Queensland Reds
  • Age: 28
  • Tests: 48
  • Test debut: 2007
  • Long-standing skipper of the Reds, whom he led to the 2011 Super Rugby title, before replacing Rocky Elsom as Wallabies skipper for Rugby World Cup 2011. He lost the job on the 2013 end-of-year tour.
  • David Pocock
  • Position: Openside flanker
  • Super team : Brumbies
  • Age: 25
  • Tests: 46
  • Test debut: 2008
  • He has captaincy experience with both Western Force and Australia, and has gained widespread acclaim for championing causes off the field as well as for his great work on the pitch.

Quade Cooper believes talk he should become the next Wallabies captain is a reflection of the hard work he's put into his game over the past 12 months.

The New Zealand-born Queensland Reds fly-half is one of the players touted as a replacement for Ben Mowen after the Wallabies skipper's decision to leave Australian rugby at the end of the 2014 season, and the speculation marks a significant turnaround for a player returned to the international fold by coach Ewen McKenzie last year after his falling out with predecessor Robbie Deans.

In September 2012, Cooper labelled the atmosphere under Deans "toxic" and said he would refuse to play if selected.

The No.10 subsequently found himself outside the Wallabies set-up, but he was elevated to vice-captain within months of his recall when Mowen replaced James Horwill as skipper during the tour of Europe in November. McKenzie's side ended that tour with four consecutive victories, with Cooper playing a key role with increased off-field leadership.

"It's great to be spoken about in that light, guys throwing out my name as a possibility to be the Wallabies captain," Cooper said.

"Six months ago there's no way that could have happened or been thrown in as a possibility.

"I know that the hard work is paying off but that's where you've got to keep working hard, you can't just stop because someone's mentioned me as a possible Wallabies captain."

Cooper has now returned officially to pre-season training with the Reds, after he'd been seen at Ballymore for the previous fortnight as he combined rugby commitments with preparations for a boxing bout in Brisbane on January 29.

"You've always got to keep working," Cooper said, noting that his work ethic had been a key part of his return to the top.

"I've come back knowing that I've been on an improved tour where the whole team played well.

"Being a vice-captain was a great honour, but I just had to go out there and do the things that were asked of me and then away from the game work as hard as I can to set a good example to the guys around me."

McKenzie has not indicated an early stance regarding the likely replacement for Mowen as captain, saying he will most likely wait until after the Super Rugby season to decide. "There's a bunch of guys," McKenzie said. "We don't have to pick a team for six months, so we'll worry about that closer to the time."

Horwill, Will Genia and David Pocock have all captained Australia in recent years as injuries have taken a toll, but Cooper is the most intriguing candidate as he is arguably next in line having been promoted to vice-captain when Mowen got the captaincy.

Cooper doesn't have the captaincy experience of Genia, Horwill, Pocock or another potential candidate, Melbourne Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham, but he's clearly held in high regard by McKenzie, who named the fly-half Reds captain against the British & Irish Lions.


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