Want more proof that Quade Cooper is a changed man? The Wallabies No.10 has revealed his close relationship with the man he’s likely to go toe-to-toe with in the three Test series against England, Marcus Smith.
Cooper, who famously feuded with Richie McCaw before a later détente, has defended his close ties with England’s boy wonder as being good for the sport.
While plenty talk up the bitterness and rivalry between the nations, Cooper’s explanation on Monday painted a different picture. It came after England’s Aussie coach Eddie Jones was being criticised in the UK for having a close texting relationship with Samu Kerevi.
Cooper is, of course, a prolific inhabitant of the world of social media and he said his relationship with Smith – which on the surface is a mutual exchange of ideas and support – wouldn’t have been possible when he was starting out.
The Cooper-Smith alliance began when former Reds player and Cooper’s mate Ben Tapuai was playing for Harlequins.
“Marcus happened to follow me on Instagram and we ended up just trading a few messages,” Cooper said. “I’m a big fan of the way that he plays.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a great man, and my friends who are in that team couldn’t speak more highly of him. I just love the way that he plays. He’s a great talent. And if I get the opportunity to play against him it’ll be something that I’ll enjoy. And hopefully, we’ll just continue to build that friendship over the coming years.”
Last week Smith told English media he was attracted to Cooper’s mindset.
“We’ve connected a little bit over socials and he’s helped me a lot actually,” Smith said.
“He’s taught me a few things — just different ways to see the game; like the types of things he looks for when he’s analysing opposition and the way he thinks when he makes a mistake.
“It’s his mindset, really. I don’t think we’ll be talking too much on the tour, but hopefully post-game we can have a beer and hopefully I’ll be the one smiling.
“Fingers crossed, I can get a chance to go up against him because he’s a top player and it will be nice to challenge myself against another top 10 in the world.”
For those of us brought up on Ashes hatred and intense on-field rivalry, this cosy friendship of the No.10s seems a little odd, but not to Cooper.
“We’re all here to help each other grow, we play a sport that’s a competitive sport, but we play the same sport,” he said.
“We want the sport to flourish, we want our peers, our counterparts, to flourish as well.
“If you’re of the mindset of you’re trying to hold things back from other people, and you’re trying to stunt someone else’s growth, for me, personally, that’s just such a negative way to live your life.
“If I can help someone progress, or someone can help me progress, those are the kind of friendships and relationships and the people that I want to be around in my day-to-day life.
“From my point of view, anyway, it’s great to be able to pass information back and forth and if it can help, or it can challenge someone then great.”
Cooper said it was helpful to see the game and life from another’s perspective – someone who was walking a similar path.
“It’s about not just getting encapsulated by your own view of how you do things, and challenging your own views,” Cooper said.
“That’s the great thing about having conversations, and especially with some of the guys who come from a different era.
“The luxury of nowadays is that we have access to those type of people. When I was young, we couldn’t just send Carlos Spencer an Instagram DM and have a chat to him. You couldn’t get in contact with these guys.
“Nowadays, I follow along. I support a lot of the young guys coming through and I enjoy watching the way that they play. So for me, it’s been able to have communication both ways, be able to learn from them, be able to understand what goes through their head, and what makes him tick as well.”
Cooper’s relationship with Eddie Jones began in a different era, long before Insta DMs, and has a much more old school vibe.
“I was fortunate to be able to come through as a youngster with a few other lads while Eddie was our Reds coach,” Cooper said.
“He was a very tough taskmaster back then. And I’ve heard he’s mellowed a bit more. He just has a wealth of experience, his sides are always well prepared. And every international team that he’s been a part of have been very successful. And so it’d be great to cross paths with him again and have a yarn with him as well.”
Pushed for examples of Jones’ tough love, Cooper opted not to list examples.
“I have nothing but respect and gratitude to Eddie for especially the way that he bought us through,” Cooper said.
“Myself and Will [Genia] we always talk about how when we came through we were 17, 18 and just thrown straight into Super Rugby.
“We went through some of the most gruelling training sessions. From a mental standpoint, he was always looking for ways to test you.
“It was more so us having to grow up very quickly take charge of the team. And I think that you look at the Reds and we got to 2010-11 we’ were in a great space because we’d kind of been thrown in the deep end and was a matter of sink or swim. And a lot of the boys really stepped up.
“Eddie saw something in us that he thought was worth pushing and pushed a few buttons to try and get us there.”