Eddie dangles World Cup carrot for Quade Cooper
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones has backed flyhalf Quade Cooper to make the next World Cup at 35 years of age but stopped short of guaranteeing him a place in the squad.
The new Wallabies coach joined ABC’s Offsiders panel show to discuss a range of topics surrounding the Wallabies including whether Cooper was in his plans.
Jones revealed he met with Cooper in Brisbane before the playmaker headed back to Japan to link with his club ahead of the new season.
“Yes I think so, he’s recovering well,” Jones revealed when asked if he could make another World Cup.
“I had a quick chat to him in Brisbane. He looked full of beans, he’s going back to play for his club in Japan, Kintetsu, who aren’t doing too well.
“They haven’t won a game so they need a bit of Quade magic. Get his confidence back, get them to win a few games and we will see where he can take us in the World Cup.”
Jones then backtracked on his words to clarify that he wasn’t guaranteeing Cooper’s selection: “I didn’t say that, I said he could be [with us].”
Since making his Wallabies return in 2021 against the Springboks the flyhalf has played six Tests, all of which Australia won before injury struck in 2022 ruling him out of the international season.
He was due to start against England in the first Test last July but he withdrew late with a calf complaint. Returning to the side in Argentina to play Los Pumas, Cooper ruptured his Achilles tendon which required a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
Cooper will return to action with the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners who are in division one of the Japan Rugby League One but have struggled to be competitive so far losing all 10 games by heavy margins.
Jones was not concerned about the level of rugby Cooper will play in the lead-up to the World Cup, highlighting that just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t.
#ICYMI:@wallabies scrumhalf Nic White said the @BrumbiesRugby gave “absolutely everything” to pull off an upset of #NewZealand powerhouse @BluesRugbyTeam on #Sunday in a game played at “Test match intensity”#Rugby 🏉#RugbyUnion🌍@SuperRugby
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) March 6, 2023
“Well I’ll tell you the other thing. Before Rassie took over South Africa in 2018, they were winning less than 40 percent of their games,” Jones explained.
“No team has won the World Cup after losing a game before South Africa [did it].
“So there is the opportunity to do different things.”
A World Cup return in 2023 would be a full circle comeback for the pivot who was the first choice No.10 for the Wallabies in 2011 in a strong side that made the semifinal.
Cooper made the 2015 squad but played second fiddle to Michael Cheika’s preferred option of Bernard Foley and missed the 2019 event altogether despite playing for the Rebels at the time.
Jones did reveal that the race for the flyhalf position is ‘wide open’ and a leaked draft XV drawn up by Eddie Jones at the Super round in Melbourne indicated that the new Wallabies head coach is perhaps thinking of youth.
“We will need to have three 10s at the World Cup, Quade could be one of them, and the other two spots are wide open,” he said.
Jones draft camp list for April that surfaced on Twitter included Brumbies No.10 Noah Lolesio, upstart 19-year-old Tom Lynagh of the Reds and Ben Donaldson of the Waratahs, who made a test debut against Ireland late last year. All three of those players are 23 years old or younger.
Wallaby veteran Foley also made a return last year under Dave Rennie, answering an SOS call of sorts as injuries struck.
Foley plies his trade in Japan with league leaders Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay and like Cooper would count towards the three player quota for overseas-based players under Rugby Australia’s eligibility rules.