Bledisloe Cup - Australia v New Zealand
Wallabies backing Cooper cameo
August 16, 2013
Quade Cooper's renowned passing flair could prove decisive when he enters the fray © Getty Images
The Wallabies are backing Quade Cooper to blow Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup clash wide open whenever coach Ewen McKenzie opts to unleash his super-sub on the All Blacks.
McKenzie says Cooper will play an "undefined" role after being picked on the bench for the Rugby Championship opener at ANZ Stadium, with uncapped rookie Matt Toomua selected in the fly-half hot seat for the Wallabies.
Cooper's greatest ally during their four years together at the Queensland Reds, McKenzie won't say how much time the mercurial playmaker will get - but the team-mates who know him best are certain he'll have a big impact regardless.
"Whether it's 10, 20, 30 minutes, he's that sort of a player you obviously can't not use him with the strengths and the talents he has," said Wallabies vice-captain Will Genia, Cooper's long-time halves partner in crime at the Reds.
Naming Cooper on the bench and protecting him from the media glare could prove a coaching masterstroke from McKenzie in his first Test as Wallabies coach. Cooper's captain at the Reds and Wallabies, lock James Horwill, certainly believes so.
"He's the sort of guy that can really open up a game when there's some tired legs out there," Horwill said. "And in the second half or whenever he does come on, he's going to make something happen. That's just the nature of the player. Any time he touches the ball, defences stress because he does do so much with the ball."
Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia believes Matt Toomua is ready for the challenge of a Test debut against the All Blacks
Cooper had been expected to make his return from an 11-month Test exile under former coach Robbie Deans in the starting line-up. But Genia said Cooper had taken his surprise omission from the run-on side in his stride.
"He hasn't dropped his bundle. He hasn't had a sook about things. He's gone about training the way he normally does," Genia said. "He's been really great for the team in terms of still wanting to have a say, an influence, and input into how we're going to do things and run things. I've been really impressed with Quade the last couple of weeks."
With history stacked against them, the Wallabies know Australia can all but kiss the Bledisloe Cup goodbye for a 12th straight year if they don't win the series opener before games two and three in Wellington on Saturday week and Dunedin on October 19.
Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between Australia and New Zealand on Saturday, August 17, from 730pm (AEST), 930pm (NZT), 930am (GMT)
The Wallabies haven't beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand in successive Tests of a series since 1949 and haven't won at all across the Tasman since 2001 - 15 matches ago.
If that's not damning enough, the world champions have won their past 26 home Tests in total - stretching back to a loss to South Africa in Hamilton in 2009 - and haven't suffered consecutive home defeats to any rival since France upstaged them twice back in 1994. Lose on Saturday night and Australia's Bledisloe Cup hopes could perish in a week.
"We know how tough it is to win in New Zealand," Horwill said. "So we've got to make the most of playing on our home patch."