State coach lends his support to playmaker’s campaign to make Wallabies squad.
Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said Quade Cooper could make the difference for Australia against the British and Irish Lions as the out-of-favour flyhalf vies for Test selection.
McKenzie said the unpredictable Cooper, who was left out of coach Robbie Deans’ initial 25-man squad to face the formidable tourists, was the type of player who was capable of unlocking the Lions defence.
“You are not going to beat them playing an orthodox game. And someone like Quade, you can’t get a better player to do that,” McKenzie told reporters on Monday.
Cooper’s mercurial qualities were on full display on Saturday when he went head-to-head with the Melbourne Rebels’ James O’Connor, Deans’s first-choice flyhalf, in the Super 15.
Cooper gifted two tries with charged-down kicks, but he recovered by landing pressure penalty and conversion attempts and then scored the match-winning try with a one-handed put-down on the line.
Deans will be in the crowd when the Lions, who mauled the Barbarians 59-8 in their tour opener in Hong Kong on Saturday, take on Cooper’s Reds in Brisbane this weekend.
McKenzie said he had told Cooper to throw caution to the wind in a bid to upset the visitors. However, he added that there was not much more Cooper could do to earn selection.
“I don’t think anyone gets picked on one game,” McKenzie said. “Quade has played every minute of every (Reds) game so I don’t think he can actually do much more.”
Lions defence coach Andy Farrell last week admitted he was puzzled at Cooper’s omission, wondering if Australia were playing motivational “mind games” with the star who was punished for criticising Deans last year.
“Who knows what’s going on?” Farrell said in Hong Kong. “We don’t know whether it’s mind games that they’re playing with Cooper, but he seems to be playing pretty well to me.”