Quade Cooper is closer than ever to ending a four-year absence from Australia ’s matchday squad, with rumours swirling that the 70-cap veteran is primed to face New Zealand on Sunday.
The Rugby Championship resumes at Optus Stadium in Perth with a third Bledisloe Test of the summer, and Cooper is in the running to earn his first Wallabies cap since June 2017.
The less experienced Noah Lolesio started at fly-half in both of Australia’s successive defeats at Auckland’s Eden Park in August, throwing an interception try in each outing.
Cooper, 33, earned a shock recall to Dave Rennie’s squad for this summer’s Bledisloe Cup, and reports have gathered momentum that the former Queensland Red could feature in Perth.
But he told reporters on Tuesday coach Rennie has offered no indication that he’s in line to reclaim his old No. 10 jersey: “Nah, not yet, mate.
“I think he keeps everybody on their toes. When we’re training, the teams are always quite mixed up.
“You look around and see where Hoops [Michael Hooper] or Marika [Koroibete] is and try and get some indication there, but other than that, the boys are just all fighting for spots.
“Rods [Izack Rodda] sort of alluded to the competition throughout the locks, the halves, and everywhere across the board.
“There’s some fantastic players here who are putting in a lot of work and a lot of effort to become better players and put their hands up for selection.”
Cooper’s last international involvement came during the 2017 mid-year Tests against Fiji, Scotland and Italy, when he came on as a substitute at fly-half or centre in each of those games.
Michael Cheika was the man calling the shots at the Wallabies helm back then, with few signs of an Australia comeback for Cooper since Rennie was appointed coach in 2019.
Cooper has represented Hanazono Kintetsu Liners in each of the past two Japanese Top League campaigns, and he’ll return to the country for its inaugural Rugby League One season next year.
The fan favourite continued, admitting he’s not sure if he’ll remain a part of the Wallabies squad when the Rugby Championship moves to Queensland following Sunday’s game in Perth.
“That hasn’t been a focus of mine at all, it’s not something that I have come in here thinking ‘I just have to play a Test’,” said the current squad’s third-most experienced player.
“Coming in here has been about learning. Whether I go back to Japan after this game, whether it’s after the Rugby Championship, I’m not 100% sure just yet. I’ll have a wealth of knowledge in terms of football, in terms of things I’ve been able to gain and learn about myself and being back inside this environment.
“The level of skill, the level of training that we’ve been able to train at, I haven’t had that for four years or so since I was last inside a Wallabies squad.”
Matt To’omua and Duncan Paia’aua offer alternative selections for Australia’s fly-half position if Brumbies starlet Lolesio is dropped ahead of Sunday’s clash with the All Blacks.
The Wallabies will be desperate to respond following back-to-back defeats on the other side of the Tasman, which included conceding a record sum in their most recent 57-22 loss.
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