Foley eyes Bok scalp in Test comeback
Veteran playmaker Quade Cooper’s impact on the Wallabies last year has been an inspiration for Bernard Foley as he looks to play his first Test in three years.
Foley was recalled to the Wallabies squad ahead of their first Rugby Championship Test against South Africa on Saturday in Adelaide, after walking away following the 2019 World Cup to play in Japan.
Flyhalf Cooper returned to the Test arena after a four-year absence in 2021, steering the side to five straight victories including back-to-back wins over the world champion Springboks.
Two years younger than his 34-year-old teammate, who is sidelined after rupturing his Achilles tendon playing Argentina, Foley said he had drawn inspiration from Cooper’s impact on the side.
“Definitely, I was really impressed how he came back in and just the experience and the composure he was able to add to the side,” the 71-Test veteran told media on Monday.
“You saw pretty much all the players around him lift and grow in stature and confidence by having that experience and that voice and calmness next to them, directing the team around.
“His influence and effect on the team have been massive and it’s sad to see his injury … that opportunity falls on me now.”
Foley said his first conversation with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie about a return came last year, but the timing wasn’t right.
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However, the former Waratahs playmaker said it “lit the fire” to wear the Australian colours again and he was grateful to have a second chance.
Foley felt his time in Japan, playing alongside the likes of current Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx, had made him a more worldly player.
“There are guys there who come with different mentalities around the game so it’s really good to have those discussions,” he said.
While he has been studying the Wallabies playbook, Foley only joined the squad on Sunday and hasn’t played a match since May, meaning Noah Lolesio is more likely to start at No.10 at the Adelaide Oval.
Foley felt the Wallabies’ playmaker role was in good hands with Lolesio and fellow youngster Ben Donaldson, who is training with the Test squad.
“I’ve been really impressed coming in meeting Noah, just how composed and confident he is,” Foley said.
“I think he’s a guy who can come in and call the shots and I’m really excited to work with him.
“These guys are immensely talented – they’ve got the composure, mentality and probably the rugby IQ to run teams.
“They just need that experience, that time in the saddle to really master their craft.”
Foley said his availability for the spring tour of the UK and Europe was still to be determined, but he was eyeing his third Rugby World Cup next year in France.
“It’s definitely on the radar,” he said, “but I’m here on day one, trying to connect with the guys and understand how we want to play, so there’s a lot of footy and a lot of time between now and then.”