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‘Felt I wasn’t going’: Quade Cooper opens up on shock Wallabies omission

By Finn Morton
Australia's head coach Eddie Jones (R) talks with Quade Cooper prior to the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup Test match between Australia and New Zealand at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on August 5, 2023. (Photo by Sanka Vidanagama / AFP) (Photo by SANKA VIDANAGAMA/AFP via Getty Images)

Four months on from Australia’s unforgettably controversial Rugby World Cup squad naming, overlooked playmaker Quade Cooper has opened up about the Wallabies and Eddie Jones.

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When the new-look 33-man squad was revealed on the 10th of August, it’d almost be an understatement to describe the makeup of that group as a surprise.

Coach Eddie Jones decided that there was no place for Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Jed Holloway, Len Ikitau or Quade Cooper in the squad – instead, backing a young group to deliver.

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That wasn’t the first sign of trouble for the Wallabies under coach Jones – with the men in gold coming last in The Rugby Championship – but it was probably a moment that defined this team.

Only eight players had gone to a World Cup before, with coach Jones also selecting one specialist flyhalf in the group ahead of Cooper and Foley. That proved to be the wrong call.

Australia went on to lose two pool matches at the sport’s showpiece event as they bundled out of the competition in the pool stage for the first time in their otherwise esteemed history.

The Wallabies’ campaign raised more questions than answers as many pinned the blame on Jones. But as of Wednesday, the man known simply as ‘Eddie’ is now Japan’s head coach.

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A lot has happened in Australian rugby since that squad was named four months ago. Quade Cooper has broken his silence about his Wallabies’ omission, revealing he “felt I wasn’t going to” before the team was named.

“To be honest, I just felt I wasn’t going to go. I just had a sense. You can read people’s energy,” Cooper told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“Especially in the last four years, my journey has been about development and the process. I have put myself into a place where my worth isn’t controlled by wearing a Wallabies jersey. It’s a huge honour, though.

“I wanted the boys to do well, like Carter (Gordon). I was quite upset because I felt I couldn’t help in any way. I had to sit back and watch things play out in front of me.”

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Jones had apparently failed to call Cooper ahead of the squad naming, with the flyhalf telling the SMH that “the attempt at calls were very late in the night.”

But that’s the end of their story, either. During the Rugby World Cup, but long after the Wallabies’ pool stage exit, Jones suggested that Cooper, Hooper and Foley weren’t the right role models for the team.

Once again, that caused quite a stir.

“To be honest, the thing that got me about that comment was more so that he questioned my want to win,” Cooper said.

“There were a lot of comments throughout the year that put a lot of players under pressure – some things that were said about other teams right before we were about to play them.

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“Some of the things he said to grab headlines – at other people’s expense – I just don’t operate like that.

“I had nothing bad to say about Eddie as a person or a man. I didn’t agree with some of the things that were said, especially about myself, ‘Hoops’ and ‘Foles’.

“My philosophy is to be the best I can be. It’s about building good habits and foundations That’s a winning mindset… I want to be reliable. When people want to push the blame on others, that isn’t a winning mindset.”

Refusing to rule out a return to the international Test area, Cooper still feels that he’s “one of the best players in Australia.”

With the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025 just around the corner, the dawn of a new era awaits the Wallabies. Whether or not Cooper is part of that remains to be seen.

But one thing that is clear by reading the full interview transcript is that Cooper is focused on what he can control. The makeup of the Wallabies’ World Cup squad was a shock, but that’s in the past.

Cooper would even have a coffee with Jones if he ever did see Eddie again.

“I hope his decision to not pick me wasn’t anything personal.”

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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