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'Quick 50': Why Eddie opted to stick with Quade over young gun Gordon for crunch Wallabies Test

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13th July, 2023
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Eddie Jones says he “couldn’t be happier” with Carter Gordon but believes the rising playmaker will be best served to continue his development via the bench rather than being thrown in the deep end so early in his international career.

There were calls for the 22-year-old to start against Argentina on Saturday after his sparkling cameo off the bench on debut against the Springboks last weekend, where he scored a spectacular try that started deep within his own half when the game out of reach.

Indeed, former dual international and All Blacks winger turned pundit Jeff Wilson led the calls, saying “Quade Cooper’s not the answer at 10” following the 43-12 drubbing in Pretoria.

“If they want to go forward, if they want to go to a new era and play a different way Gordon’s got to be at 10,” Wilson said on Sky’s The Breakdown.

“They couldn’t control the territory and if you can’t control territory against the Springboks you’re going to get hurt.”

Former World Cup Wallaby Stephen Hoiles however astutely pointed out that most playmakers would have struggled in Australia’s first-up loss in South Africa given the Springboks’ physical domination.

“Everyone’s going ‘oh, Quade wasn’t the same Quade.’ Of course he wasn’t. His side was going back, and the whole entire game they were going backwards,” Hoiles said on Stan Sport’s Between Two Posts.

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Eddie Jones said he’s pleased with Carter Gordon’s development but didn’t want to throw him into the Test cauldron too early. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Jones, who has never shied away from backing youth, said it was important not to be swept up in the emotion of the rising playmaker’s cameo and once again turned to a cricket analogy to explain why he’s opted to maintain the status quo.

“What I don’t want to do is throw him in,” Jones said of Gordon after making 10 changes to his Wallabies side on Thursday.

“I want him to be ready to go. He’s a great, great young player but he’s a young kid at the moment. He’s finding his feet.

“Would Quade have played like that in the last 10 minutes when there was plenty of space and there was a bit of quick ball?

“You’ve got to be careful. That’s like a batsman coming in the second innings and there’s no result on it. He gets a quick 50, they say, ‘oh shit, he should be playing next Test,’ you know. Quade’s coming back from a serious Achilles injury.

“So we want to give him some time and Carter’s coming along beautifully, couldn’t be happier with him. He’s one out, one back. We’re just holding him back at the moment, then we’ll let him go when we get over the rise. We’re not at the rise yet.”

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That doesn’t mean that Gordon hasn’t been spending much time in the saddle in training.

On Tuesday, the Rebels playmaker spent the bulk of the Wallabies’ session at first-receiver and looked at home in position.

Quade Cooper will once again start for the Wallabies, with Carter Gordon set to come off the bench against Argentina. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

By scoring on debut, Gordon followed in the footsteps of Cooper who also scored on debut against Italy way back in 2008.

“I was super happy for him. We were just having a laugh in our team room before because there was a clip the Wallabies posted on Instagram, which was other debutants who scored on debut. And I was one of those players,” Cooper said.

“We were having a little laugh because his try was in 4k and mine was barely in black and white. We had a good laugh about that.

“His performance when he came on, obviously the game was gone at that stage, but I felt he showed what he is all about, he showed he has the makings of a great player and I want to be there to continue to support him and also challenge him. It is a great start to his Test career.”

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While Gordon enjoyed his breakout season, Cooper revealed that he had first got to meet the burgeoning playmaker as a teenager when former Reds coach Nick Stiles invited the fresh-faced blonde into their Super Rugby program in 2017.

“I remember saying to ‘Stilesy’ at that time, who’s now the GM at Melbourne, ‘mate, this kid’s good. If you can get him, keep him.’ He’s a great player,” Cooper said.

“Now to see him continue that on, to now playing Test-match footy. For me, getting to know him as a man and as a person, that’s what I have enjoyed most.”

As fate turned out, Stiles did with Gordon enjoying a breakout season at the Rebels after joining the Super Rugby franchise from the Reds at the end of 2021.

Quade Cooper of Australia is tackled by Santiago Carreras of Argentina during The Rugby Championship between Argentina Pumas and Australian Wallabies at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on August 06, 2022 in Mendoza, Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

Almost a year after his shattering injury against Argentina, Quade Cooper will once again wear the No.10 jersey against Los Pumas. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Saturday’s Test is a significant one for Cooper.

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It was in the Wallabies’ corresponding fixture last year that the 35-year-old ruptured his Achilles in Mendoza.

Cooper said he was confident there would be no lingering demons after meeting the challenge head-on by opting to wear the same boots he injured himself in his first running session earlier in the year.

“In terms of it being the corresponding game [from last year’s injury], I’m looking forward to that challenge,” he said. “

It’s similar to the first time I ran again. My first running session, I grabbed the boots that I hurt my Achilles in and put them straight back on.

“In the past, I may have thrown the boots out when I got injured rather than thinking, ‘Hey, the boots, game and team are irrelevant, it’s the work that you’ve done and do each day to put you in the position to perform’.”

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