Cooper set to get nod at No.10
May 27, 2010
Quade Cooper is likely to wear No.10 against Fiji © Getty Images
Quade Cooper is set to start the Wallabies' Test season in the No.10 jersey after getting the seal of approval from coach Robbie Deans.
The Reds playmaker, named as Australian Super 14 player of the year on Thursday, will likely get the nod at fly-half against Fiji in Canberra next Saturday. Deans is currently overloaded with midfield options as both Cooper and Waratah Berrick Barnes offer options outside of incumbent pivot Matt Giteau.
Cooper started the Wallabies' November Tests at inside-centre after an injury to Barnes and there is still a strong chance that his axis with Giteau may be repeated when England arrive down under for a two Test series in June. For now, though, Cooper looks set to be handed the reins at the start of a make-or-break campaign only months after attracting scandal by being charged for burglary.
"Yes he has," Deans said when asked if Cooper has done enough to deserve a starting spot. "We'll name the team on the appropriate day and you'll get your confirmation or otherwise at that point, but there's no doubt he's done enough.
"I mean he was acknowledged last night with the award of Player of Super Rugby, and that's a great achievement by a bloke who has had some challenging circumstances to deal with and he's grown enormously. He just pushed on. He's always had talent and he's done well in the involvements he's had at international level - his last outing against Wales was great, he attacked and defended well.
"But the good thing was he's brought that consistency into Super Rugby so he didn't go back there and park-up so to speak, he went back there and started showing the ambition he's got. He wanted the Reds to perform and he started taking a greater involvement and responsibility with that group and driving outcomes. So he started connecting better with his team-mates as opposed to just functioning as an individual."
Cooper also offers a ready-made understanding with scrum-half Will Genia after their sparking season with the Reds, but may have to tone down his extravagant attacking style when he makes the step up to Test level.
"The answer is yes and no," Deans said when asked if Cooper would be reined in. "He'll bring all those game qualities with him and if the opportunity presents itself the answer is yes. But the reality is Test match contests generally are distinct from Super rugby. There's an intensity about them where you often have less time and space, but he's a quick thinker and a quick decision maker so I wouldn't rule it out.
"This time last year he would force those opportunities whereas his decisions around when and when not to (attack) are more advanced and more based on the interests of the team as opposed to a whim."