Cooper back in Wallaby squad

2013-07-26 08:05
Quade Cooper (File)

Sydney - Quade Cooper was recalled to the Wallabies squad on Friday as new coach Ewen McKenzie ended the ill-fated James O'Connor flyhalf 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 No 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 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."

Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu were not considered for selection because of injury along with long-time regulars David Pocock, Digby Ioane, Pat McCabe and Scott Higginbotham.

Beale is set to undergo shoulder surgery this week and will be out for the remainder of the 2013 season, the Australian Rugby Union said, while Palu will be unavailable during the early stages of the Rugby Championship as he continues rehabilitation from knee surgery.

McKenzie, a former World Cup-winning prop, said there would be a new approach under his stewardship.

"We'll have some different thoughts and ideas about how we go about it," he said.

"The reality is we've got to challenge ourselves to do things differently otherwise the outcomes will remain the same.

"We'll be able to go into that first game in our own backyard, in front of a full house, with some element of surprise. I don't think that's a bad situation."

Brumbies halfback pairing Matt Toomua and Nic White were among 10 uncapped players included in the squad.

"There's a bunch of guys coming into the squad who are all playmakers and the way we want to look at playing the game, we want to be able to move the ball around the park," McKenzie said.

Other newcomers included Reds backrower Jake Schatz and Melbourne Rebels lock Hugh Pyle.

"At this stage it's important that as many players as possible gain exposure to our programme and that everyone is receiving an opportunity to push their case for selection before we narrow down our squad," McKenzie said.

McKenzie said he also gave priority to players who are signed to the Australian Rugby Union for 2014 and beyond, with many tough selection decisions favouring those players available for the long term.

Lock James Horwill will captain the team, which will be reduced to a final squad of up to 30 players by August 9 ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand on August 17.

The Wallabies will also play South Africa and Argentina in the Rugby Championship series home and away.

Wallabies training squad:


Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Betham, Quade Cooper, Nick Cummins, Anthony Faingaa, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Mike Harris, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Jesse Mogg, James O'Connor, Nick Phipps, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White


Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Faingaa, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, Michael Hooper, James Horwill, Sekope Kepu, Peter Kimlin, Ben McCalman, Hugh McMeniman, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, Tatafu Polota Nau, Hugh Pyle, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Jake Schatz, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper


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