Quade Cooper says he’s ‘learnt a lot’ and is ready to make the most of another chance with the Wallabies.
Having challenged Quade Cooper to prove he’s ready for a return to Test rugby, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says the former Queensland Reds star has already shown he’s far from finished in an Australian jersey.
Cooper, 33, was a shock inclusion in the Wallabies squad for next month’s Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand.
With 70 Tests under his belt, flyhalf Cooper – who last played for Australia four years ago – is set to be a mentor for current Wallabies No.10, 21-year-old Noah Lolesio, in the ongoing absence of the injured James O’Connor.
Having let Rennie know that was he was back in Queensland and available to help out at the Wallabies’ Gold Coast training base, Cooper met the national coach for a coffee.
Impressed by Cooper’s maturity, Rennie took up the offer and went a step further by naming him in the squad to tour New Zealand.
Cooper, who has played for Japanese club Kintetsu Liners since 2019, trained with the Wallabies on Monday, and Rennie was impressed by what he saw.
“He’s learnt a lot through those experiences, very similar to James O’Connor,” Rennie said of Cooper.
“My knowledge of Quade, my knowledge of James was mostly through the media … so it’s been good to get to know them.
“The conversation we had last week, I talked a lot about the importance of character in this group. We’ve got a young group of men who are impressionable and really need Quade to come in and be a real positive influence.
“He’s highly motivated and … running around this morning, he looked as sharp as ever to me. Even his voice, even the direction he’s giving some of our players, it was really positive, so I’m excited to see how he can add to the group.
“Quade’s job is to come in here and influence us as selectors.”
And it’s a job a thankful Cooper is ready to fulfil.
“I probably didn’t ever expect to be in this position, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back in this environment,” he said.
“I guess it’s one of those things that, like, you just continue to work away, try and grow each day, and then an opportunity like this has been able to present itself and it’s just a matter of making sure that you’re available and you’re ready.”
Cooper said he had “grown in areas” he had previously “fallen short” in on and off the field.
“As a person, as an athlete, through the situations and some of the circumstances that I’ve have been through, I’ve had a great opportunity to be able to learn a lot as I’ve gone,” he said.
“Firstly, in able to build my body from the ground up. I had a great opportunity to rebuild my body, refocus and think.
“I don’t have any expectation of coming in here to try and be a better player than what I was, it’s just about trying to provide now, to try and put my best foot forward .”
NZ Rugby confirmed on Monday the opening Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park on August 7 will proceed as planned, with the Wallabies expected to be granted an economic travel exemption to arrive in New Zealand this week after the trans-Tasman travel bubble was shut.
The Wallabies will now remain in New Zealand for two tests, with the third to be staged in Perth, on a date to be confirmed. The All Blacks are set to stay in Australia after that match, and play two matches against Argentina, while they wait for the trans-Tasman travel bubble to re-open.