Fly-half will become Australia’s vice-captain for their Test match against England.
When Australia fly-half Quade Cooper runs out as the Wallaby vice-captain against England at Twickenham on Saturday, the knowledge he is an example to his younger brothers will, he says, help him in his new rugby leadership role.
Cooper was in Test exile for nearly a year after accusing former Australia coach Robbie Deans of creating a “toxic” environment.
But the New Zealander’s departure following the 2-1 series loss to the British and Irish Lions in July paved the way for his replacement by former Wallaby prop Ewen McKenzie, previously Cooper’s coach at Queensland.
And now Cooper is determined to repay the faith of his rugby ‘parent’.
“If I draw the comparison, I have two little brothers, two little sisters and one older sister,” the 25-year-old Cooper said.
“And my two little brothers massively look up to me, not only as a person but as a rugby player because they love rugby and their ideal dream is to represent Australia and Queensland professionally.
“When you think about how much respect they have for you and how much they look up to everything you are doing in your life, you want to and need to set a good example for them.
“When you turn that into a team environment, your team-mates are like your brothers. The coaches … and staff are like your older brothers or parents so you have to set the right example for your team-mates on and off the field.”
England’s Youngs brothers, scrum-half Ben and hooker Tom, have savoured the experience of playing Test rugby together.
It’s something Cooper might struggle to match because not only are his younger brothers, Reuben and Moses, aged 14 and 10 respectively, they are also fly-halves.
“They’re both really good and both play 10 so I will have to watch my position!,” joked Cooper.
Even before he became Australia coach, McKenzie had shown his faith in New Zealand-born Cooper by picking him for the Reds and, more recently, having him captain Queensland in their tour match against the Lions.
“It’s been a long four-and-half-year period where I’ve got to know him as a person and as a coach,” said Cooper. “He has always offered support and always spoken to me on the level of mutual respect.
“He’s relayed that to me so you often know you can confide in him, and if you have made a mistake, you know there’s a way you can work to rectify that.”
However, McKenzie had no hesitation in recently dropping another talented playmaker in James O’Connor from the Australia set-up after the mercurial back was escorted off the premises at Perth Airport — the latest in a series of embarrassing off-field incidents that have blighted his international career.
“I’ve been in that position where you haven’t been part of the team and you have had lots of time to think about what’s important,” Cooper said.
This week saw O’Connor join English Premiership side London Irish and Cooper added: “If you look at it in the right way, that everything happens for a reason, then it might be a good thing for him to change something in his life.”
One thing Cooper doesn’t want to change is his love of boxing, having knocked out his opponent in the first round when he made his professional debut in Brisbane in February.
However, he insisted thoughts of a ring return wouldn’t prove a distraction from the job at hand.
“I’m looking forward to my next bout but the focus for me is this tour and I’ve got a massive game on Saturday.”