Quade Cooper is back in Super Rugby and on a mission to complete an incredible journey back to the Wallabies No 10 jersey, according to Melbourne Rebels coach Dave Wessels.
Cooper’s relationship with Australian rugby has been on a rollercoaster since 2018 when Brad Thorn kicked off his term as Reds coach by dumping the 70-Test Wallabies flyhalf. Four years after helping the Reds clinch the 2011 Super Rugby title, Cooper indulged in celebrity boxing, played Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games and dipped his toe in European rugby with Toulon before spending last season playing club rugby for Souths in Brisbane.
In October, Cooper signed a one-year deal with the Rebels, reuniting with former Reds and Wallabies halfback partner Will Genia under Wessels, the former Rondebosch Boys’, UCT and Western Force coach.
“Quade will know there’s a long way to go between now and being the starting 10 at the World Cup, but it’s within the realms of possibility for him,” Wessels told AAP. “He’s hungry to prove he’s still world-class.”
Cooper hasn’t started at flyhalf for Australia since October, 2016, but the possibility of a return to those heights became more tangible earlier this month when the 30-year-old was invited to join the Wallabies on a week-long conditioning camp in Sydney.
His timing appears to be perfect as Australia’s flyhalf job is up for grabs. The man who took Australia’s 10 jersey off Cooper, Bernard Foley’s streak of 24 consecutive starts at flyhalf ended in September last year and he has since lined up at pivot in only three of eight Tests.
Wessels believes Cooper’s experience and insight will help the Rebels improve on last year’s 7-9 record and ninth-placed finish.
“We’d be really silly if we didn’t take some of Quade’s thinking. He’s got a lot of experience and a really good mind for the game. I didn’t really know him prior to this but my experience with him so far has been excellent. He’s engaged in what we’re doing and importantly he believes in the way we want to play.”