Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Cooper returns to Australia squad

Quade Cooper has not played for Australia for almost a year

Quade Cooper has moved a step closer to an Australia return after he was included in the final 30-man squad for the Rugby Championship series, but there was no place for experienced prop Benn Robinson.

Cooper has not played for the Wallabies in 11 months after falling out with former coach Robbie Deans.

But new boss Ewen McKenzie has rushed the 25-year-old straight back in, with Cooper now favourite to wear the number 10 jersey in next Saturday's clash with the All Blacks in Sydney.

Fellow fly-halves Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley were also included in the squad, two of eight uncapped players to earn their first call-ups.

The Brumbies were rewarded for their outstanding Super Rugby season with 11 players making the cut, including five debutants.

Scott Fardy, Jake Schatz, Scott Sio, Albert Anae, Tevita Kuridrani and Nic White were the other players to be included in their first Wallabies squad but 59-cap prop Robinson was a shock omission.

Robinson played all three Tests in the recent British and Irish Lions series but was overlooked by McKenzie, with back-rower Dave Dennis and back-up scrum-half Nick Phipps also axed.

"It's unfortunate that a number of good players missed out although this isn't necessarily a case of poor performance but rather a reflection of some of the quality we have coming through in Australian rugby right now," McKenzie said.

"For the moment though, we've narrowed our way down to a group of players we believe are capable of getting the job done against the All Blacks in just over a week.

"That doesn't mean the players chosen won't change in the future and that those who have missed out this time will be forgotten."

Veteran lock James Horwill remains as captain of the side, which boasts an average age of under 25, with hooker Stephen Moore the only player over 30.

McKenzie said now his squad had been finalised they will focus all their attention on getting their preparation right for the task of toppling the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium.

"There has understandably been a large amount of content to get through on the field but we've also been focusing on the mental side and ensuring we have the right mindset going into the game," he said.

"The reality is not one player in the current squad has lifted up the Bledisloe Cup before, but if they are good enough over seven days and two matches then this will change.

"That's an exciting challenge and one the group must get their minds around quickly if we are going to be successful.

Wallabies squad: James Horwill (c), Albert Anae, Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Kane Douglas, Saia Faingaa, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Liam Gill, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Jesse Mogg, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, James O'Connor, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White.

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