Dave Rennie brought Quade Cooper back into the fold ahead of the Bledisloe Cup, and you could forgive him if he’s wondering if he might have caused himself a headache he didn’t need.
So far Rennie has resisted the urge to give Cooper playing time, and the decision to leave him out of the squad for Bledisloe 3 in Perth last weekend seemed to have ended the debate on whether he should return to the Wallabies team in some form.
But another feeble effort, and another unconvincing backline display has only seen the Quade calls intensify again.
“I was surprised he didn’t get picked last week,” former Test halfback, and Cooper’s friend, Will Genia told The Roar.
“People will say I’m biased but I’d love to see him given an opportunity. People want to talk about the future and fair enough but what does the future matter if you’re not achieving anything in the present?
“You’ve got to manage that. It’s a four year cycle between World Cups but say you have 15 Tests a year in between – that’s 60 test matches – essentially a person’s Test career. So to say it’s just about the World Cup…
“They obviously treat these Test matches seriously but we can’t keep saying we need to build for the future so we keep giving these kids an opportunity. We have to manage that and find a balance.”
Lote Tuqiri, who played in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, on Thursday called for Cooper’s return for the first time in the national team since 2017.
“I’ve always liked Quade Cooper,” Tuqiri said.
“He’s in the squad, he’s been in and around that time for a while … I’m not saying Noah Lolesio is not the option, (but) Noah probably needs a bit of a rest at the moment.
“He’s only a young guy. Feeling that constant pressure each week can get a bit tough.
“He’s only young in his Wallabies career, so give him a week or two off and let Quade take some of these games.
“He can help take the pressure off (Lolesio) and then Noah can come take over probably for the last couple of games – that’s what I’d do.”
Mat Rogers, also a member of the Wallabies’ 2003 World Cup squad, was less direct than his former teammate, but still positive about Cooper’s potential impact.
“Quade is an out and out star of the game,” Rogers said.
“Are his best days behind him or ahead of him? Who knows, but he needs an opportunity to see that.
“I think he’s a freak. I’d love to see him playing but at whose expense?
“Do you persist with what we’re going with at the moment or do you give Quade in and give him a run?”
Tuqiri said he also like to see Rennie start Taniela Tupou, the so-called ‘Tongan Thor’ against a top class Springboks pack.
Tupou has been a bench forward in four of Australia’s six Tests in 2021, playing just 52 minutes in the two most recent games after being a big hit in the role against France.
Tuqiri says Tupou should be a first-choice front-rower.
“Maybe I’m old school, but I’d play my best XV. I’d start with my best XV and then let everything else get dealt with after that,” Tuqiri told AAP.
“I know you probably want to bring him on when things have cooled down and people are tired and he can use his destructive running a little bit more.
“You’d tell him that but I think for Taniela, he probably wants to start as well.
“So you’ve got to wonder what that’s doing for his confidence from a mental point of view.
“For me, I want my best XV starting – I’m starting Taniela Tupou.”
Tuqiri was a fan of Rennie’s decision to add 38-year-old Greg Holmes to his squad.
An injury to Pone Fa’amausili opened the door for Holmes, who last played for the Wallabies in 2016.
“Whether he plays or not, I don’t know, but I think he’s great to have in the squad as a bit of a mentor to the younger blokes,” Tuqiri said.
“Everything like that helps when you’re facing the All Blacks in a Test or you’re facing the Springboks. That’s where their games are won and lost.”
The Springboks named their team on Wednesday with a bench featuring three loose forwards and no reserve second row along with props Ox Nche and Vincent Koch and hooker Malcolm Marx.
Franco Mostert, who can play second row, starts at No.7 in a back row alongside skipper Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen.
“I know it looks weird having three loose forwards on the bench but you must remember that one of our locks is playing loose forward for us in the starting line-up in terms of Franco,” said Jacques Nienaber.
“It looks weird. Why would you have three loose forwards on the bench? But we are starting three locks if you put it like that.
“If you look at how Australia play all the Test matches, they play with pace and tempo and massive continuity and stuff like that and an awesome skill set in terms of having the capability to stretch you from touchline to touchline. That was the reason.”
Vermeulen is back for his first Test appearance since World Cup final in November 2019.
“He is on track in terms of where we thought he would be in his return to rugby. Like anybody, it will take some time to get used to the pace,” Nienaber said.
“It takes a couple of matches to get used to the pace of international rugby again but in saying that Duane has been part of the Springboks for over 50 Tests.
“He is an experienced player, he has been there before, he almost knows the shortcuts to things on the field so happy, we are exactly where we thought he would be now and I can’t wait for him to get back on the field now. How many minutes? It will depend on how the game unfolds on the day.”