QUADE COOPER HAS been recalled to the Wallabies squad as new coach Ewen McKenzie ended the ill-fated James O’Connor fly-half experiment for next month’s Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup Tests.
Cooper, who was dumped by former coach Robbie Deans from the recent losing series against the British and Irish Lions, was named in a 40-man training squad in McKenzie’s first selection since taking the job.
Deans persisted with O’Connor at number 10 throughout the 2-1 series loss to the Lions, while incumbent playmaker Cooper was left out of all three Tests.
But McKenzie moved quickly to put his own stamp on the Wallabies set-up, indicating that O’Connor would be viewed as an outside back once again and not as a player closer to the action.
That is where I see him primarily. I think he can play a bunch of positions,” McKenzie said of O’Connor.
The last of Cooper’s 38 Tests was against Argentina 10 months ago, and since then was regularly overlooked by Deans, falling out of favour with the coach after describing the Wallabies set-up as “toxic”.
McKenzie, who has coached Cooper at Super Rugby level at the Queensland Reds and remains one of the maverick playmaker’s staunchest supporters, said Cooper would not be necessarily rushed back into a Wallabies starting role.
“Everyone talks about Quade but what I am interested in is depth,” he said. “The pecking order might change in a week’s time. I am not fixed on who will start. What I want is pressure on positions.”