Michael O’Connor, the new Wallaby selector, has made it clear Quade Cooper has to take less risks to earn a test recall following his move to the Melbourne Rebels.
Cooper signaled his return to Super rugby by helping the Rebels defeat the Brumbies 34-27, but O’Connor, who coached the Australian men’s sevens team from 2008 to 2014 and was a Wallabies selector in 2006 and 2007, focussed on the player’s high-risk option taking.
Connor, who will start his role as a selector alongside head coach Michael Cheika and in-coming director of rugby Scott Johnson next month, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “There are still areas in his game he needs work on and if he can improve those, well then he’ll be in the reckoning.
“I would be very surprised if Michael (Cheika) didn’t agree with that. At Test level though you can’t be throwing blind passes. You can’t be taking risks at the line.”
Cooper’s display against the Brumbies impressed the critics with Fox Sports commentator Greg Martin rating it “The most commanding flyhalf display from an Australian in three years.”
O’Connor expects plenty of debate over selection, including the option of using just one of Michael Hooper and David Pocock at No7, but predicts the ultimate decision will be with Cheika. O’Connor also believes Cheika could take control of the team’s attack rather than appointing a replacement for Stephen Larkham.
He added: “There may be a different perspective I put on the table and I’m sure Johnno will do the same. The most important thing is we have a healthy discussion and debate about combinations. It’s helpful just to have another set of eyes and perspective. Ultimately Michael is responsible for the side and he will pick the players he wants and that is the way it should be but there will be a healthy discussion.”
“You’d like to have a discussion about David Pocock playing No.7. If (Cheika) has got strong reasons to keep things the way he has, well that’s fine, but I think we should have the discussion and we will have the discussion. It’ll be interesting.
“When I was a selector we had Phil Waugh and George Smith as back-rowers. Back then we didn’t start Waughy because we had a couple of big, very effective back-rowers in Cliffy Palu and Rocky Elsom. Hooper and Pocock are two of the best back-rowers in the game so we’re very fortunate. To leave one off, I think there is always going to be an argument.”
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