When Quade Cooper was parachuted in to the Wallabies squad a spectacular comeback looked on but it hasn’t happened yet.
Quade Cooper is running out of chances to make what would still be a spectacular Wallabies return but the veteran playmaker says he never joined the squad expecting to get a game.
The rescheduled third Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks on Sunday could be 33-year-old Cooper’s final shot with an imminent return to Japan looming.
James O’Connor is also set to return to the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship games having overcome a groin injury, which could knock Cooper down the pecking order, if he stays with the squad.
Coach Dave Rennie has declared there will be “a few changes” from the side which was thrashed 57-22 by the Kiwis in Auckland two weeks ago.
But he hasn’t told Cooper, who was parachuted in to the squad to help guide young fly-half Noah Lolesio, one way or the other if he’ll be playing at Optus Stadium this weekend.
Cooper, who hasn’t played for Australia since 2017, said leaving the squad without playing his 71st test would not be a hammer blow.
“It hasn’t been a focus of mine at all. I didn’t come in to the squad thinking ‘I have to play a test’,” Cooper said on Tuesday.
“Coming in here has been about learning. Whether I got back to Japan after this game, or after the Rugby Championship, I’m not 100 per cent sure.
“But I’ll have a wealth of knowledge, things I have been able to learn about myself being back in this environment. The level of training we have been able to do, I haven’t had that for four years since I was last inside a Wallabies squad.
“It hasn’t been a focus of mine to just come in and play games. If I can grow as a rugby player, take that back to Japan, that’s a great reward for myself. Anything else outside of that is a bonus.”
Despite not yet being picked to play, Cooper was full of praise for Rennie, for both the “inclusive” environment he had created, and his “growth mindset”.
The young Wallabies were blasted off the park by the All Blacks, but Cooper said Rennie was nurturing them to be better, and the rewards would come.
“He has a real growth mindset. The training paddock is a place to practice good habits and things you may not be able to do in a game but get confidence to at some point be able to pull that off,” Cooper said.
“When you see a guy not coming over an burning you do making a mistake but nurturing you to understand the intent was right, but you need to get better at that skill.”
Cooper said the delay of one week for the third match, after the All Blacks initially refused to travel to Perth, had given the Wallabies extra time to “nail” the things that let them down in the opening two losses.
“We’ve got some young players who have shown some great things … as long as those guys continue to grow and we try to push each other we’ll be in a better position,” he said.
“As a squad, it’s a journey. we’ve come to Peth, a game got cancelled … we’ve got some extra time to grow.We can build on our game plan. there’s not one area, we are trying to inch our way forward.