Cooper misses out on the Wallabies camp

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Robbie Deans’ promised clean slate for Quade Cooper begins with him being left out of an initial Lions tour squad that will gather in Sydney.

Jim Morton of the AAP broke the story that Cooper had confirmed he wasn’t invited to the two day administration camp in Sydney this weekend.

I don’t quite know what to make of the call to be honest.

Initially it seems like James O’Connor is being groomed as the likely Lions Tour fly-half, and that wouldn’t be completely out of left field. O’Connor played well at 10 for the Wallabies on the Spring Tour in 2011.

He hasn’t really had a whole lot of game time there of late though. It would be a little of a stretch to ask him to front a Lions tour in that position.

Lots of people have said the same thing about Christian Lealiifano and the amount of time he’s spent at inside centre this year.

When I had O’Connor in a hypothetical bench situation that meant he would cover for Will Genia if catastrophe were to strike it wasn’t met with much praise.

Someone even said “JOC cannot pass effectively in both directions as a fly half, what makes you think he could from scrumhalf?”

Plenty of others echoed a similar sentiment.

I don’t think O’Connor is a natural distributor first. That’s a bigger issue to me than how good his pass is.

At 10 he’s still a lot like Beale, or even Foley to a degree.

Running is the first threat before passing. At Test level I think a distribution mindset is even more important than Super Rugby.

We are possibly going to see those particular areas tested in a once in a lifetime Test series.

Can O’Connor pass well, with distance and under pressure, in both directions from flyhalf?

Can he purposefully bring the best out of others around him in the game?

The complete flip side of this is whether it really matters at all.

I’m not convinced of the importance of a two-day administration camp.

It sounds to me like this kind of camp is basically a chance to talk about the tour and mostly do some promotional material for the tour as well.

If my hunch is correct, then it makes a fair bit of sense that Cooper isn’t included in the 25-man group that will spend the weekend being fitted into the Lions tour ads, banners, flyers, emails and match day programs (all in their new jersey).

Cooper wasn’t exactly the ARU’s favourite son last year.

And rightly, they aren’t going to make Cooper the face of the Wallabies without some trust earned back.

I don’t expect to see Cooper’s image next to the Wallabies and Lions logo hanging from a bridge over the M4 anytime soon. Don’t go looking for him in the margins of the next ARU members email that comes your way either.

The Lions have HSBC and Land Rover. The Wallabies have QANTAS* and I wouldn’t expect to see a Cooper side-step to adorn the ceremonial 747 any time soon.

There is also plenty of time for Cooper to win his place back in the team if he really is behind the eight-ball right now.

From a Super Rugby perspective he’s been playing steadily and getting better as the weeks go by. He’s also enjoying his partnership with a now fit Will Genia too.

O’Connor is starting to get a lot more responsibility at the Rebels this year and will probably start to get more chances to take play-making duties as the season progresses also.

Is O’Connor in line to start at fly half for the Wallabies? Possibly.

Is it Cooper being left out of a weekend based on promotions and events? Also a possibility.

We won’t really know until Deans names his first squad of significance on June 2nd. Then he gets to remove 25 players from the next Super Rugby round and take them to a camp where actual rugby things happen.

*Just a quick aside: after googling “Wallabies sponsors”, the first two good looking links don’t work. The third one goes to a list that’s pre-World Cup. The search bar on the ARU website didn’t turn up anything either. Roarers, do the Wallabies still have sponsors?

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