Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Home Sport Rugby

Cooper grateful for Genia influence

Quade Cooper admits he could never have forced his way back into the Australia side without "world's-best scrum-half" Will Genia.

Livewire attacking fly-half Cooper's Wallabies career lay in ruins during the summer's British and Irish Lions tour.

The 25-year-old playmaker was frozen out by then coach Robbie Deans after branding the squad atmosphere "toxic".

New Zealander Deans was unseated after the 2-1 series defeat to the Lions and new boss Ewen McKenzie quickly drafted Cooper back in.

McKenzie coached maverick talent Cooper at Queensland Reds, and that prior relationship paved the way for an international reconciliation.

But Cooper has now revealed close friend and club-mate Genia has had a big hand too.

The 47-cap outside-half explained: "It's a great relationship on and off the field; when you get on well off the field that tends to translate onto it.

"We first played together for Queensland Under-16s. We've been fortunate enough to play alongside each other for many years now.

"It's about going out there week on week with one of your best mates, and representing your country and doing it proud.

"Will's the best half-back in the world in my eyes, so I'm very fortunate to play outside him.

"He makes my job a whole lot easier, so I'm very fortunate to be able to partner up with him week-in, week-out."

Cooper's past misdemeanours seem to have given him pause for thought.

After his international hiatus, the wily line-breaker admitted it is exciting to be firmly back in the fold, especially given his vice-captain status under McKenzie.

"I enjoy being in Ireland," he said. "Hopefully I can catch up with the family that billeted me in 2005 when I was here for the Australian Schoolboys tour.

"It will be great to catch up with them, say hello and thank them for their hospitality in 2005 and see where they are all at now, as everyone will have grown up.

"When you look back at that, to come here on a schoolboy tour then to come back and represent your country at senior level, then that's a great experience.

"To stay with a family rather than be in a hotel was a good experience, and so it will be excellent to see them again."

Cooper admitted he is relishing the match-up with Racing Metro's Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton.

Fired up by the former Leinster outside-half's bullish approach, Cooper continued: "He's a class player, he's shown that for many years now.

"He's very skilful and very competitive. All around the ruck he's always fighting for little inches to get ahead.

"That's what I love to see in opposition players. Me looking at him, being able to go up against him, it will be interesting and one I look forward to.

"You want to play against the best players and he's definitely one of them.

"The harder you work the better you get, the better you get the more consistent you get, and hopefully that's where we can be headed as a squad now.

"It's all about repaying not only the coach but also the team-mates.

"You play your heart out, but you've got to want to better yourself in training too. It's a good challenge against this Irish backline, there's a lot of experience.

"They are one of the best backlines around."

Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is fit to return and take a seat on the bench for Australia bench while there are three changes to the starting pack from the side that eased past Italy 50-20 last weekend.

Scott Fardy returns at blindside flanker, prop Sekope Kepu makes his second start of 2013 at tighthead prop and Rob Simmons slots into the second row. McKenzie has taken the decision to rest tighthead prop Ben Alexander.

Fit-again hooker Polota-Nau missed half the Super Rugby season and the British Lions Test series with a broken arm.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph