Star fly-half has a game to remember for his 50th Test cap.
Australia captain Ben Mowen said Quade Cooper had turned into an “outstanding leader” following the fly-half’s virtuoso display in Saturday’s 30-26 win over Wales in Cardiff.
The 25-year-old Queensland playmaker, frozen out for a year by former Australia coach Robbie Deans after he accused the New Zealander of creating a “toxic” environment within the Wallaby camp, marked his 50th Test with a sublime performance at the Millennium Stadium.
His vision and range of passing repeatedly opened up the Wales defence, notably when his ‘back-hand’ flick to Joe Tomane paved the way for Christian Leali’ifano to score the first of Australia’s three tries.
“I thought Quadey was outstanding in his 50th game,” said Mowen. “But in saying that, the guys either side of him (scrum-half Will Genia and inside centre Leali’ifano) really helped.
“That 9-10-12 channel really directed the way we wanted but there were a couple of moments of individual skill (from Cooper).
“Not many people can execute that in touch-footy in the backyard, let alone at the Millennium in those sorts of circumstances.
“You can’t say enough about what sort of bloke Quade is and what contribution he’s made in the last period and the growth he’s shown,” added No.8 Mowen, who only made his Test debut in June but found himself captaining Australia throughout their end-of-year tour of Europe.
If promoting Mowen to the captaincy proved a shrewd move on the part of Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, who replaced Deans after the 2-1 series loss to the British and Irish Lions in July, so too was his decision to recall Cooper, a player he knows well from their time together at Queensland.
Indeed, McKenzie didn’t just bring Cooper back, he also made him Wallaby vice-captain.
“He’s turned into an outstanding leader and when he’s performing, generally the team’s performing very well,” Mowen said of Cooper. “That shows a lot about the respect he carries in that group.”
Not even the fact he was sin-binned for the final few minutes could stop Cooper from being named man-of-the-match.
“I was worried when I got the yellow card,” Cooper told the BBC. “I was ashamed to put my team in a position like that but we’ve got a tight unit and got away with the win.
“We’re getting there. We’re sitting at number three (behind world champions New Zealand and South Africa) and want to climb that ladder by putting in good performances,” he added.