Wednesday’s Rugby News examines Quade Cooper’s departure and parting gift to the Reds, the front-runner for Wallabies outside centre, the All Blacks preparation for the final Bledisloe and the confidence behind Queensland Country’s tilt to go back to back
Quade no longer a Thorn in his side
The worst kept secret in Australian rugby has finally been confirmed with Quade Cooper signing with the Melbourne Rebels for the upcoming 2019 Super Rugby season.
Cooper spent the majority of 2018 exiled into the club wilderness, taking part in Queensland’s number 1 rated show “I’m a Wallaby, get me out of here” with fellow contestants Karmichael Hunt and James Slipper, before staring for Brisbane City in the NRC.
“I want to do whatever I can on and off the field to help grow the rugby community in Melbourne. I’m keen to work hard and make the entire Rebels organisation and their fans proud,” Cooper said.
“I was really impressed seeing the improvement that Melbourne have made this year and their professionalism since the first discussion we had about me being a Rebel has been first class.”
The move adds to the gluttony of options that coach Dave Wessels has at his disposal, leaving the Rebels more dangerous than Andrew Hore in a seal colony.
“I’ve obviously chatted to Quade a lot over the last few months and I’ve been impressed by his love of the game, and his willingness to reflect on his journey,” Wessels said. “He knows that he has some hard work ahead of him, but he has the potential to be a really important spark for us over the next few months.”
Whilst this is old news in most rugby circles, the fascinating aspect of this story is how Quade Cooper chose to announce his departure.
Cooper released a photo on social media last night depicting him fending off old sparring partner and Reds coach Brad Thorn with the caption “Sometimes you are forced out of the place you love but thank god there’s more than one place that loves me.”
The post attracted a wide range of responses from across the rugby community, including All Black TJ Perenara, Wallabies Reece Hodge, Lukhan Tui and Dane Haylett-Petty, former Wallabies Nic White, Drew Mitchell and James O’Connor, with the majority of players either backing the star or simply laughing at the post.
What do you think of the move, our Brisbane man Ben has penned his thoughts surrounding his departure, do you agree or disagree with his assessment?
Folau’s position let out(side) the bag
The mystery surrounding who will play outside centre in this weekend’s final Bledisloe Cup match has all but been confirmed, with Israel Folau continuing his subtle shift throughout the backline to take up the position.
The Wallabies had been weighing up the replacement for injured incumbent Reece Hodge, but Folau has seemingly all but been confirmed for the role, with his main opposition Samu Kerevi, ruling himself out of contention on the back of a lack of match fitness.
Kerevi hasn’t played a professional match since the end of June due to a bicep injury with his only football since coming at the Byron Bay Sevens competition where he made two brief cameos (and two longer cameos at Beach Hotel), with Kerevi admitting he is unlikely to get through half the match, let alone 80 minutes.
“Game fitness is something different,” Kerevi said. “You can train it all you want but when it comes to the game it’s a lot different. But I’ll back myself to play a solid 30 minutes and see where I go from there if the legs keeping going over.”
Folau impeding selection at 13 has caused significant debate amongst Wallaby fans, with his only experience in the position coming with the Waratahs during 2016-2017 which ended up being a failed experiment by coach Daryl Gibson.
Personally, I would like to see young livewire Jordan Petaia given a shot at the position, something which former Wallaby Tim Horan believes is a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’.
“Jordan Petaia isn’t a star of the future, he’s a star now who’s earnt the right for a Wallaby tour of Europe,” Horan said. “I went from club footy with Souths to facing the All Blacks so I really think Jordan has had a much better foundation to feel confident about the huge next step that may await him.”
Petaia has been a revelation for the Reds this year, debuting for the Queensland side this year and he has been dominant throughout the NRC, scoring nine tries across eight games.
Whilst he’s only just a boy (relatively), considering this is essentially a dead rubber, I don’t see the harm in throwing him into the role and seeing how he does.
All Blacks preparing the broom
Whilst we’re on the topic of the Bledisloe test match, which seems to be the Luke Hemsworth of Bledisloe matches:the forgotten one, the All Blacks are determined to avoid any slip-ups this week, aiming to clean sweep the Wallabies on Saturday in Japan.
The All Blacks have been settling into Japan ahead of the 3rd test match and their attempts at a 3rd straight World Cup, marvelling at the wonderful country and its hospitality.
We’re aware of the fact that the World Cup is in Japan next year,” Hooker Codie Taylor said. “It’s a great chance to experience the culture and having the Test in a different country adds a little element of excitement.” You feel like a king when you walk around.”
Despite their fascinations surrounding the host country and Tokyo, Taylor warned that the world champion All Blacks had their sights set on completing a series sweep, aiming to avoid a repeat of last year which saw the Wallabies take the 3rd test match in Brisbane and avoid the whitewash.
“Since last night the boys have switched into normal Test mode to face an Aussie team that will be up for the challenge,” Taylor added. “I’m just looking forward to getting stuck into them again…It’s the Wallabies — they may have lost some games in the Rugby Championship but when they play us they back themselves to beat us.”
Lock Sam Whitelock said the All Blacks’ first task was a top performance against the Wallabies noting “We have to make sure we concentrate on Australia and once we have done that we can focus on Japan”
This comes as Japanese Rugby fans have fallen well under the spell of the famous All Blacks haka, which Whitelock had put down to its historical and cultural significance.
“The cool thing about the haka is the tradition that’s gone with it. The All Blacks performed it for over a hundred years. People think we do it for intimidation — but for us, it’s to connect with ourselves, our team mates and the people that have gone before.”
Country looking to continue Hodoo Drua
Whilst most of the rugby attention will drift to the Bledisloe Cup match, lets not forget about the other huge match in Australian rugby this week, with the final of the 2018 NRC season set to be played between Fijian Drua and Queensland Country.
The Drua have been the dominant team throughout the competition, only losing one match, which fittingly came against their grand final opponents.
The Country recorded the 51-27 win during the early stages of the competition, which continued their unbeaten run against the Fijian side since their inception in the competition, a statistic that captain Duncan Paia’aua believed would give them the belief to get the job done.
“It does give us confidence,” he said. “It’s going to be a very big crowd over there and they’re going to have a lot of support base behind them but the boys did the job against them over there last year and hopefully we can take some confidence into that.”
The defending champions have proven their 2017 form wasn’t just down to coach Brad Thorn either, with Rod Seib taking the reins this season and his slightly more hands-off approach reaping similar rewards.
However, the Drua will be a tough matchup for the Queensland side, with the Fijian side deservedly going into as favourites on the back of their star flyhalf Alivereti Veitokani to marshal their unpredictable attack.
“They play a very interesting style of football, with their offloads and trying to keep the ball alive as much as possible, which makes it very difficult for us to shut down,” rookie flanker Tom Kibble said.
“They’re definitely the team to beat, I think they haven’t lost a game at home this year so it’s going to be a difficult task for us but I’m sure we’re up to it.”