Cooper snubbed as Cheika looks to future
RUGBY UNION: Poor form, a lack of enjoyment and the return of Kurtley Beale.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika identified three reasons for leaving Quade Cooper out of an extended pre-Bledisloe Cup training squad on Wednesday, and in doing so, casting major doubt about the international career of the 70-Test playmaker.
Cooper was the major omission in a 38-man squad named by Cheika that will engage in a series of training camps prior to the Wallabies' first clash with the All Blacks in Sydney next month.
Though still missing Brumbies players, the squad yet again contains a large number of new up-and-comers and a few old faces, including Force props Pek Cowan and Tetera Faulkner, who last played Tests in 2014.
But as usual, the absent names are often more telling about Cheika's plans than the inclusions, and along with discarding Scott Higginbotham and Rob Horne, the coach's "difficult" decision to leave 29-year-old Cooper at home was a major one.
"From a form perspective, yeah I don't think his (Super Rugby) form has been brilliant to be honest," Cheika said.
"I have had a long talk with him yesterday and I don't want to breach that code of coach-player by giving out too much detail, but one of the big things is for him to look like he is enjoying his footy.
"Getting out there and really being a competitor for that 10 jersey. We have had a talk about the reasons why and obviously a lot of that is trying to get him back into a space where he can be that player, that's going to get us around the park and do the stuff that we want him to do.
"I don't feel like that's been happening and I feel like at a certain point I have to change things. With a bit of congestion now in the midfield players, with Beale back and some of the options around the 10 position, I decided that's the way to go."
Asked if he thought Cooper would fight to win his position back, Cheika said: "I'd say that's his natural character, yes. He is also a very senior player as well, and you want your senior players to have that attitude when they face adversity. That they show resilience."
Cheika said he'd omitted Higginbotham following a lack of impact in the June series.
The 38-man squad contains 11 uncapped players with Billy Meakes, Curtis Rona, Campbell Magnay, Jordan Uelese, Isack Rodda, Adam Korczyk and Sef Fa'agase all called into their first full Wallabies squad.
The Force were rewarded for their strong season with nine players included.
The Waratahs, traditionally a big supplier of Wallabies' players, could only get 10 in after a very poor season.
Taniela Tupou and Izzy Perese are also back in the squad, and so is Samu Kerevi, who missed June with injury.
Nick Phipps returns at the expense of Jake Gordon.
Young front-rowers Uelese and Jermaine Ainsley have both won call-ups in a nod to the future.
After both missing selection in June, Reds locks Rob Simmons and Kane Douglas have also been given the opportunity to earn their way back into Cheika's plans via strong training performances.
James Slipper, Lukhan Tui and Kyle Godwin were not considered due to injury.
WALLABIES EXTENDED SQUAD
Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley*, Western Force; Adam Coleman, 12 Tests, Western Force; Pek Cowan, 10 Tests, Western Force; Jack Dempsey, 1 Test, NSW Waratahs; Kane Douglas, 31 Tests, Queensland Reds; Sef Fa'agase*, Queensland Reds; Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tests, Western Force; Ned Hanigan, 3 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Richard Hardwick, 2 Tests, Western Force; Michael Hooper, 68 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Sekope Kepu, 80 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Adam Korczyk*, Queensland Reds; Tolu Latu, 4 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Sean McMahon, 15 Tests, Melbourne Rebels; Stephen Moore (c), 120 Tests, Queensland Reds; Tatafu Polota-Nau, 71 Tests, Western Force; Tom Robertson, 9 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Izack Rodda*, Queensland Reds; Rob Simmons, 71 Tests, Queensland Reds; Lopeti Timani, 7 Tests, Melbourne Rebels; Taniela Tupou*, Queensland Reds; Jordan Uelese*, Melbourne Rebels.
Backs: Kurtley Beale, 60 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Israel Folau, 55 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Bernard Foley, 45 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Will Genia, 78 Tests; Dane Haylett-Petty, 17 Tests, Western Force; Reece Hodge, 13 Tests, Melbourne Rebels; Karmichael Hunt, 3 Tests, Queensland Reds; Samu Kerevi, 8 Tests, Queensland Reds; Marika Koroibete*, Melbourne Rebels; Campbell Magnay*, Queensland Reds; Billy Meakes*, Western Force; Eto Nabuli, 1 Test, Queensland Reds; Sefa Naivalu, 7 Tests, Melbourne Rebels; Izaia Perese*, Queensland Reds; Nick Phipps, 52 Tests, NSW Waratahs; Curtis Rona*, Western Force.
*denotes uncapped player