‘We need a bit of Quade magic’ – Cooper back from injury to stake claim for Wallabies World Cup place
Quade Cooper’s injury return has transformed the battle to avoid Japanese rugby’s wooden spoon into a crucial Wallabies’ World Cup moment.
The mercurial playmaker ruptured his Achilles while in Argentina with the Wallabies last August but will return for bottom-placed Kintetsu Liners, the club he guided to League One promotion last season, against NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu in Saturday’s final regular-season round.
The loser could face Israel Folau’s Urayasu D-Rocks in next week’s promotion-relegation series, with the former Wallabies code-hopper also returning from a three-month injury stint.
“Reflecting on the last eight months, I realise that my biggest challenge has been with myself,” Cooper wrote on social media ahead of his return. “It’s the small actions daily that lead to big victories.
“From the day I got injured I knew I was ready for the challenges this journey would provide. The goal is always progress not perfection.”
After four years in the wilderness, Cooper earned a shock Test recall under former coach Dave Rennie while playing second-tier rugby in Japan. He kicked a penalty after the siren to sink South Africa in that Test, the first of five straight wins that shot Australia from seventh to third in the world rankings.
But his absence, as well as Samu Kerevi’s long-term knee injury, took a toll as the side sunk again with Rennie ultimately replaced by Eddie Jones.
In his absence no standout No 10 has emerged, with James O’Connor, Noah Lolesio, Bernard Foley, Ben Donaldson, Tane Edmed, Carter Gordon and Tom Lynagh all having tried or floated.
Jones’s first Test back in charge is against South Africa on July 8th, one of four before they leave for September’s World Cup. No doubt the coach, impressed by Gordon during his first Wallabies camp on the Gold Coast last week, will be watching the action in Osaka closely after hinting recently Cooper was firmly in his plans.
“They [Kintetsu] need a bit of Quade magic,” he told the ABC’s Offsiders last month. “So that’ll get his confidence back; get them to win a few games, and we’ll see where he can take us in the World Cup.
“We will need to have three 10s at the World Cup, Quade could be one of them, and the other two spots are wide open.” – Guardian