Rugby Championship

Cheika boosts Cooper ahead of SA opener

2015-07-13 12:02
Quade Cooper (AFP)

Melbourne - Australia coach Michael Cheika has given Quade Cooper a glowing endorsement at flyhalf as the race for the Wallabies' number 10 shirt quickens ahead of the Rugby Championship opener against South Africa.

Cooper is competing with Waratah Bernard Foley for the starting role against the Springboks in Brisbane on Saturday after recovering from a shoulder injury that wiped out a large stretch of his Super Rugby season.

Once a fixture in the Wallabies with Reds scrumhalf Will Genia in partnership, the New Zealand-born 27-year-old has struggled to keep his place amid form and injury problems in recent years.

But Cooper has been front and centre at training camps in the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, trying out different combinations with Matt Giteau and Matt Toomua at inside centre.

"I've been really, really pleased with what he's done so far," Cheika told reporters in Brisbane of Cooper.

"A lot of good energy, a lot of good communication from him in organising troops around him.

"We've got a lot of different combinations we can play - today he was playing with Matty Toomua next to him, he could be playing with Giteau next to him like he did on Friday.

"It's probably maybe just having a look and seeing who's playing best together."

Though the Reds were unable to get the best out of Cooper and Genia in a dismal season, the seasoned pair have been retained in Cheika's 31-man training squad alongside Foley and Waratahs scrumhalf Nick Phipps.

Genia has signed to play for French club Stade Francais after the World Cup but New Zealand-born Cooper has yet to put pen to paper after agreeing terms with Toulon, fanning speculation he might try to play sevens for Australia at the Rio Olympics next year.

On Monday, Cooper said he was in no hurry to settle his future.

"I'm very focused on the Wallabies right now," he told reporters.

"The future is the future and the past is the past."


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