Eddie Jones on Cooper and captaincy
NEWS: Eddie Jones has dropped his first selection hints in the wide-open race to wear the Wallabies’ No.10 in France and it doesn’t bode well for Quade Cooper.
The incoming Australian coach has five Tests and eight months to figure out his preferred World Cup squad after Dave Rennie was sensationally axed on Monday.
Rennie himself was still tinkering, particularly in the spine, with a 44-man squad in camp last week not including veteran five-eighths James O’Connor or Bernard Foley.
Japan-based Cooper was there on the Gold Coast alongside young Super Rugby Pacific pair Ben Donaldson (Waratahs) and Noah Lolesio (Brumbies).
Rennie enjoyed his brightest moments in charge with Cooper in the driver’s seat, his surprise recall sparking a five-game winning streak that took them to No.3 in the world.
But Cooper’s Achilles tear has him on ice and, when asked for his thoughts on the position, Jones didn’t mention him until prompted.
“You’ve got to be available and as it stands when Super Rugby starts (in February), he won’t be,” Jones said of Cooper, whose return date remains a mystery.
“The big thing is to get fit and start playing. When he does that, then he comes into recognition.
“When Quade came back (under Rennie), he didn’t look out of place and looked a more mature (player); still gifted in terms of his ball play and decision making.
“He added a lot of physicality to his game which as a younger player, as they do, he struggled with a bit.”
So what does he want from his playmaker, and how does that shape the team’s style?
“Australian rugby has always been at its best when we have been really tough, we fight, we have that real hard edge about us,” the coach said.
“So I am looking for a No.10 who can play tough in that position, particularly in terms of decision making and be really smart.
“It will be who comes through at Super Rugby that is going to have the first opportunity for Australia,” he said in another worrying sign for Cooper.
Talking about the captaincy, Jones explained how he’ll rid the side of the discipline errors that contributed to them dropping as low as No.8 in the world, adamant he’s a better coach than when last in charge of the Australian team nearly 20 years ago.
James Slipper led the side last year, even after long-time skipper Michael Hooper’s return from personal leave.
But Jones, who will arrive in the country later this month to begin on a five-year deal, didn’t guarantee either of them the job.
“Whenever you change coaches or change the team environment, as what’s happened, the captaincy becomes even more important,” Jones said.
“So we need someone who can quickly galvanise the troops (and) work closely with me, because every captain and every coach combination is different.
“So the right captain for a particular coach is not necessarily the right captain for another coach.
“I have just got to walk the floor initially.
“I have started having some preliminary phone calls, talks to the players and then we will make hopefully an educated decision.”
Meanwhile, Jones will keep an eye on the Japan Rugby League One campaign and especially one player, star winger Marika Koroibete.
Jones knows Koroibete’s capability well, having been on the receiving end as England coach last year when the muscular Fiji-born winger was man of the series in the Wallabies’ 2-1 mid-year defeat.
The new Wallabies boss will be hoping Koroibete – now one of his prime assets – can come through the remainder of the Japan Rugby League One season unscathed.