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'Baffled': SBW says Wallabies needed Quade Cooper against All Blacks

By Alex McLeod
Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams share a laugh at the 2016 Sydney Sevens. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams says he is “baffled” that veteran Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper wasn’t selected for Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup clash in Perth.

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The All Blacks completed a series clean sweep of the Wallabies over the weekend as they overcame a Jordie Barrett red card to defeat their Australian counterparts 38-21 at Optus Stadium.

Plenty of speculation leading into the match had centred on whether Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie would call on Cooper, who has come into the squad as injury cover for the injured James O’Connor, for the encounter.

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Ian Foster reacts to dominant All Blacks win over Wallabies in Perth

Had he been selected, Cooper would have completed an unlikely comeback to the test arena four years after he made his last appearance for the Wallabies.

However, the 70-test star was snubbed by Rennie, who instead opted to keep faith in young pivot Noah Lolesio, who had endured a tough couple of matches against the All Blacks at Eden Park last month.

Utility back Reece Hodge was picked on the bench to act as cover for Lolesio, meaning there was no room in Rennie’s match day squad for Cooper.

Despite the absence of the 33-year-old, the Wallabies impressed on attack, but were guilty of gifting the All Blacks too much possession via turnovers and unforced errors, allowing the New Zealanders to let loose and score multiple tries.

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Although he showed some classy touches with ball in hand, Lolesio was among those guilty of letting the All Blacks into the game through some wayward kicks and largely struggled to assert himself on the Kiwi defence before being subbed in the 63rd minute.

Speaking to Stan Sport after the the match, Williams said the selection of Cooper would have gone some way to helping overcome the All Blacks’ defence, which was impressively staunch for much of the match.

“The non-selection that baffled me before the game was the non-selection of Quade Cooper,” Williams, who played 58 tests for the All Blacks between 2010 and 2019 and is a close friend of Cooper’s, said.

“I know it might be biased coming from my lips because I’m close to him, but, just from a rugby point-of-view, what he can add [would have helped].”

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Williams suggested that Cooper should have been picked on the bench ahead of Hodge, who he labelled as “Mr Fix-It”.

“Brother Reece, he’s Mr Fix-It, he’s a great player, but I think, in terms of unlocking this great All Blacks defence, Quade is your man later in parts of that game.”

Williams added that he hoped Cooper will be selected by Rennie to take on the Springboks in their third Rugby Championship on the Gold Coast next week.

How long Cooper, who is based in Japan with the Hanazono Kintetsu Liners, will remain with the Wallabies remains unclear given O’Connor will return to the squad when they relocate to Queensland for the rest of the Rugby Championship.

Rennie has sung Cooper’s praises in recent weeks, saying the New Zealand-born first-five has been applying pressure on the Wallabies selectors to make the match day squad.

“He’s been fantastic in the group. Can’t speak highly enough of him,” Rennie said of Cooper late last month.

“Even when we had a few days off at the front of the week, he was driving a lot of the training and additional stuff a number of the boys were doing out on the field here or down at the gym.

“He’s been a big contributor to all meetings and discussions and prepared to share his mileage and he’s trained really well.

“His ability for pass selection or kicking options has been spot on and it’s been really good, from a training perspective, for us.

“He’s pretty much been running the New Zealand play, so he’s been great, and he’s applying pressure on us for selection.”

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'Baffled': SBW says Wallabies needed Quade Cooper against All Blacks

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