Wallaby reprieve for 'toxic' Cooper?
Wed, 10 Jul 2013 07:57
I'm in a position to control who is going to play
Maverick Reds playmaker Quade Cooper is likely to see his Wallaby career resurrected under Ewen McKenzie, as the new coach seeks to transform the team into a more attacking unit.
The polarising flyhalf has not featured for Australia since he labelled the Wallabies atmosphere "toxic", following last September's narrow win over Argentina - a comment that saw him left out of the squad which faced the British and Irish Lions.
But with Robbie Deans gone and Cooper's Director of Coaching at the Queensland franchise replacing him, the odds are that he will be recalled for their next match against the champion All Blacks in Sydney on August 17.
McKenzie has championed Cooper's cause and said before the Lions series that he should be on the team.
He made clear after his appointment as Wallabies coach on Tuesday that he remains a great admirer.
"I think Quade is an outstanding player. I'm now in a position to control exactly who is going to play and who isn't," McKenzie said.
"I look forward to the challenge of selecting the team. I'll be picking the team that I think can beat the All Blacks. I'm really looking forward to that task. I think we've got a really good bunch of players.
"I think we've got great depth."
Wallaby playmaker Will Genia, a teammate of Cooper's at the Reds, said they were both excited about the possibility of playing again at national level, but neither was taking selection for granted.
Genia said on Wednesday he had spoken with Cooper since McKenzie's appointment, and they were eager to impress him.
"We've been fortunate enough to work with him [McKenzie] here and see the good things he's capable of doing," the scrumhalf told reporters in Brisbane.
"You can't hide the fact that Ewen's always been a big fan of Quade's, but just like every other player in Australia we're going to have to prove ourselves.
"Everyone has a clean slate and everyone has to prove they're worthy of the jumper again."
James O'Connor took Cooper's place in the Wallabies line-up, but he received mixed reviews and his club the Melbourne Rebels decided on Sunday not to offer him a contract beyond the 2013 season.
O'Connor is one of a handful of players whose recent off-field behaviour has overshadowed their sporting achievements. McKenzie has made it clear he will not tolerate any ill-discipline.
The new Wallaby coach revealed little about his thoughts on O'Connor.
"Obviously, I've had a good look at the last three games," he said.
"I've seen James O'Connor out there playing, but I've never coached him. There's a bunch of players like that, so I'll need to work all that out."
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