Australia legends backing Quade Cooper to end Wallabies exodus against South Africa
Back-to-back defeats against New Zealand have left Dave Rennie’s side without a point after two games, having also suffered a clean sweep against the All Blacks in this year’s Bledisloe Cup.
And former greats of the international side have called for Quade Cooper to be recalled to the XV in an effort to stop the rut after four years on the sidelines.
Noah Lolesio, 21, has started each of Australia’s last six Tests and appears to have Rennie’s trust, but Will Genia and Lote Tuqiri are among those who’d like to see Cooper back in the saddle.
Genia spent eight years playing with Cooper for the Queensland Reds and has been his half-back partner at Japanese outfit Kintetsu Liners for the past two campaigns.
“If it were up to me, Quade Cooper would be starting at No. 10 against the Springboks this weekend,” the 110-cap scrum-half wrote for TheXV.
“Could you say that I’m biased? Maybe. But I don’t think there are many players in Australia that would be a better No. 10 than him. Maybe James O’Connor – but even that would be a good debate.
“I was so genuinely happy for Quade when he got called back into the squad. Obviously, things didn’t end for him with Australian rugby the way that he would have liked. To see him get the opportunity to maybe be a part of the squad and go out in a way that’s more fitting to his contribution to the Wallabies and Australia rugby would be great.
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“But, more importantly, I still think he’s good enough. You’ve got guys like Will Harrison, Ben Donaldson, Jono Lance – plus obviously Noah Lolesio and James [O’Connor], but I’d say Quade is still one of the best 10s in the country. I think he warrants selection based on his ability alone.”
The No. 9—who also spent the 2019 season alongside Cooper with Melbourne Rebels—continued to say that while Lolesio has “done well,” his playing time requires management.
Lolesio missed some critical kicks when the Wallabies hit back to lose by just eight points in their first summer Test against New Zealand, throwing interception tries in that and their next meeting.
Fly-half alternative James O’Connor has been restricted in his responsibilities as he recovers from injury, while Matt To’omua and Reece Hodge are among the other options at No. 10.
But Cooper is the stand-out pick to start, according to another Australia great in Tuqiri, who scored 30 tries in only 67 appearances for the national team.
“I’ve always liked Quade Cooper,” the former winger said of his one-time Australia team-mate.
“He’s in the squad, he’s been in and around that time for a while … I’m not saying Noah Lolesio is not the option, (but) Noah probably needs a bit of a rest at the moment.
“He’s only a young guy. Feeling that constant pressure each week can get a bit tough.
“He’s only young in his Wallabies career, so give him a week or two off and let Quade take some of these games.
“He can help take the pressure off (Lolesio) and then Noah can come take over probably for the last couple of games – that’s what I’d do.”
Both Tuqiri and Genia are in agreement Brumbies prospect Lolesio could do with a respite following back-to-back triple-headers against France and New Zealand.
And reigning world champions South Africa won’t be liable to let up on their Queensland hosts as they look to reclaim their place atop the Rugby Championship table.
Vermeulen will make his first appearance since he was named Man of the Match in their 2019 Rugby World Cup final win, and Australia could be boosted by their own veteran’s return.
Cooper’s international exodus has gone on since June 2017, but the conditions could call for the 70-cap playmaker to reignite his Wallabies career in sensational circumstances.