Australian fly half Quade Cooper has this autumn made a statement that he is back to his glorious best, with a sumptuous display of creativity and dynamism in Australia’s final autumn international against Wales.
Cooper has returned to the fold under new head coach Ewen McKenzie, and at the age of just 25 achieved his 50th cap in the gold and green colours in Cardiff. Fifty caps within which the rugby world has come to know Cooper for the mastermind of an outside half he truly is. Cooper has benefited in the international setup by reuniting with McKenzie, who he previously worked with at his club, the Queensland Reds.
After a storied past on the international scene, Cooper has returned retaining his charismatic playing style, which has married up with a maturity that he uses to finally control even the biggest of matches for his country. The fact that Cooper has worked above and beyond to restore himself to the Australia starting 15 has taught him valuable lessons in growing up, both on and off the field. His ability to manage a match has developed ten fold – and adding this to his repertoire, in addition to Cooper doing something out of the ordinary, makes him a very powerful player in an Australia team growing in strength. Cooper has been installed as vice captain, a responsibility which could be seen as a reward for his growth and development in recent months.
Coach McKenzie strategically awarded Cooper the extra duty, as previous experience of working with Cooper has taught him how to get the best out of the maverick star. “I worked out early on, the more responsibility I gave him, the better he played. Simple as that – he likes responsibility,” said the Wallaby boss recently. Cooper’s performances this autumn have showed the rugby world that McKenzie’s decision was correct.
The autumn series was the proof in the pudding that Cooper has taken the next step for Australia, and his increased levels of maturity should secure him a place in the team through to the 2015 World Cup. Australia are grouped with both Wales and England in the opening phase of the tournament, and with the likes of Kurtley Beale and David Pocock set to return alongside Cooper and Israel Folau, Australia will be a potent contender to progress a long way in the tournament. With the next Wallaby game in seven months time, all of the aforementioned have their chances to maintain their form and recover from injury as the World Cup approaches.
Cooper’s sublime performance in Cardiff deserves all the praise it gets. Two unbelievable underhand passes to teammate Joe Tomane in the game were typical of Cooper’s often eye-catching and daring playing style, with the first offload leading to Australia’s opening try. These were the striking moments in a game the outside half controlled for large spells. Cooper’s growing maturity and natural daring on the pitch are what sets him apart as one of, maybe even the world’s best fly half.
Of course, Cooper will have to sustain his form and keep rolling out the performances consistently for club and country. However, his confidence and willingness to try the extraordinary are huge factors in what has gotten him to his current position in world rugby. With the addition of the mature head on his shoulders, responsible for the success of his country, Cooper has all the tools he wants to be one of Australia’s greatest ever players.
How has Quade Cooper improved his game in Australia’s recent fixtures? What extra does Cooper bring to the Wallaby fold?