Quade Cooper is well in contention to make his first appearance for the Wallabies since 2017 this weekend, according to teammate Reece Hodge.
Australia take on New Zealand in the first Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park in Auckland, in which Cooper could make a return to test after a four-year-long absence, following a shock call-up to the Wallabies’ squad.
While the 33-year-old’s primary reason for being included in the squad is to act as a mentor for young fly-half Noah Lolesio in the absence of the injured James O’Connor, Cooper is available for selection.
Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge was speaking at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s game against the All Blacks and revealed that Cooper may well feature in the Bledisloe Cup encounter.
? Welcome back, @quadecooper!
— Wallabies (@wallabies) July 26, 2021
Reece Hodge on Quade Cooper’s Wallabies return.
“He’s been pushing just as hard for selection as everyone else,” Hodge said, via News.com.au.
“Whilst he’s obviously here to mentor, that’s not to say that he’s not here to push for a spot for selection for starting side team or the bench.
“To echo Dave’s comments last week, he’s as sharp as he was when we last saw him in 2017 and 2018-19. He’s done a lot of work away from the field to get his body right, and I know his knee’s feeling the best it has in quite a few years.
“He’s sharp and he’ll be pushing for selection this weekend.”
Wallabies head into All Blacks clash without James O’Connor.
Australia’s usual first choice fly-half James O’Connor is unlikely to feature in any of the three Bledisloe Cup games against New Zealand, as the 31-year-old is currently struggling with a groin injury.
21-year-old Noah Lolesio started in all three of the Wallabies’ test matches against France last month, and the youngster played a crucial role in his country’s 2-1 series victory.
However, beating the All Blacks in a three-match series will be a much bigger ask, and while Lolesio has tasted victory against New Zealand once already in his burgeoning career, the hosts are strong favourites for Saturday’s game in Auckland.
The Wallabies are short on experience at fly-half, as Lolesio is joined by uncapped number 10 Duncan Paia’aua in the Australian squad, a situation which has paved the way for Cooper’s return.