Tom Richards Cup - Wallabies v British & Irish Lions
Quade Cooper's omission 'own goal'
ESPN Staff
June 10, 2013

Australia and Robbie Deans have made a major error omitting Quade Cooper from the expanded Wallabies squad to face the British & Irish Lions in the three-Test series for the Tom Richards Cup, former England and Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward believes.

Deans confirmed on Sunday that Cooper would not be drafted into the 31-man pre-Test camp on the Sunshine Coast, after a performance for Queensland Reds against the Lions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday that showcased both reasons for and against his Test selection. Cooper showed great attacking intent with quick taps, great footwork and a wonderful passing game that created space for team-mates; but the fact he continued to defend at fullback despite Deans' assertions that he wanted him in the front line, a failed no-look pass that almost gifted the tourists seven points, and missed goal kicks and touch kicks, seemed to vindicate the coach's opinion that he does not suit the more structured game plan of Test rugby.

But Woodward is adamant that Cooper should be in the Wallabies squad if Australia are to retain the Tom Richards Cup, saying "the Lions did not want to face him and they have got their wish".

"The decision to leave Quade Cooper out of the Australia squad beggars belief," Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column. "It is an own goal that has handed the Lions a trump card and just emphasises again how modern coaching - aligned with this obsession with 'team ethic' - has sidelined the more maverick characters. Sports psychologists love all this sort of stuff and I am sure there are people who have never played or coached rugby advising Deans that the team morale and 'code of conduct' is more important than anything. But Gatland's post-match comments tell you everything: 'With Quade you get the full bag of tricks. You've got to watch him, the quick taps and stuff, he just plays with a different threat.'"

Woodward wrote that Cooper kept the Lions' defence guessing in Brisbane, something Australia must replicate in the Test arena.

Quade Cooper impressed Sir Clive Woodward against the Lions in Brisbane (video available only in Australia)

Tom Hamilton and Alex Broun review the Queensland-Lions test

"Against a pressing defence, Cooper just held on to the ball to wait to see where the tackle was coming from before reacting. If he was expected to do one thing, he scanned the defence and did the opposite - be it a step off his wrong foot or a cross-field kick with the outside of his boot.

"Australia are in for a huge battle against such a powerful team and they need the X-Factor dotted around their back line. They need Cooper at fly-half, with James O'Connor on the wing and Kurtley Beale at fullback. That this will not happen is a true shame for fans but brilliant news for the Lions."

Cooper's absence is not the only advantage for the Lions heading into the first Test, Woodward wrote, as the tourists "will be better prepared than Australia as they are playing matches".

Echoing the criticism within Australia of Deans' decision to have his players in a pre-Test camp rather than performing for their Super Rugby teams in tour games against the Lions, Woodward wrote "there is a real possibility the Lions will arrive in Brisbane in far better match condition".

"To not allow your Test squad to play in the warm-up games has been a serious error by Deans as ... you can do all the training you like and wrap your team in cotton wool but nothing compares with game time."

© ESPN Australia / New Zealand

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