'We haven't spoken about the Cheika thing' - Cooper issue not a factor
Cooper has every reason to try to make a point in the Mendoza match on Sunday morning (AEST) after the former Australian coach effectively tried to end his Test career five years ago.
There’s still no love lost but Rennie, who took over as Wallabies coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, said the history between the pair hadn’t been raised.
“We haven’t spoken about the Cheika thing at all … his focus is on playing well for us and we expect him to do that,” Rennie said on Friday after naming his side.
Rennie felt the experience of 34-year-old Cooper would be key as the Wallabies look to improve t heir game management.
“Quade’s trained really well. His experience, the quality of his skill set is really evident when we train as well,” Rennie said.
“The impressive thing about Quade last year was we had a plan going into the game and he implemented it really well and we’ve got a clear plan this time as well.”
Rennie said Wright’s form in the Brisbane Test, when he shifted early to fullback to cover for the injured Petaia, couldn’t be ignored.
“Tom was outstanding at fullback a couple of weeks ago,” Rennie said.
“He’s an excellent communicator, really good organiser of people around them and he’s just been in really good form.”
Jed Holloway will make his debut after being named at blindside flanker, while his childhood friend, uncapped prop Matt Gibbon, has been included on the bench.
Rennie is a big fan of the tackle-busting Holloway, who is equally at home in the second row.
The 29-year-old made a rugby resurgence this season following his return to the Waratahs after being dumped by ex-NSW coach Rob Penney in 2020.
“We’re really excited for him. He’s such a good man and he’s had a massive season for the Waratahs and deserves his chance,” Rennie said.
“He’s got a really good skill set, he’s an excellent lineout forward and he’s got a bit of an edge about him and we think that’s going to be important going into the weekend.”
Rennie confirmed Arnold, who has had a calf strain, would be fit for the second Test in San Juan.
Hunter Paisami and Len Ikitau will resume their centre partnership from the UK spring tour in the absence of Samu Kerevi.
The Australians are well aware they need to match the physicality of a Pumas pack, who will be fired up by Cheika, who oversaw the Wallabies for five years.
Argentina are also riding high after upsetting Scotland in their recent three-Test series.
“You can always say it’s a bit of a risk if you lose a back early on and you’re under a little bit of stress but we feel the battle up front is going to be really important,” he explained.
“They’re a good side, they will be really combative.”
Wallabies: Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (capt), Jed Holloway, Matt Philip, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Fola u Fainga’a, James Slipper. Reserves: Lachla n Lonergan, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Nick Frost, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge.
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