Mercurial fly-half Quade Cooper will be in “strong contention” for a surprise recall to the Wallabies if he keeps up his impressive early season Super Rugby form, Australia coach Michael Cheika says.
Playmaker Cooper has been capped 70 times but has not been picked since mid 2017 after falling out of favour.
He was then dumped by the Queensland Reds and returned to club rugby before being hired this season by the Melbourne Rebels, where he has been reunited with Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia.
Cooper had a standout match on his Rebels debut against the ACT Brumbies, showcasing his array of skills, and again impressed against the Otago Highlanders on Friday evening, setting up two tries.
Cheika, speaking in a video recorded ahead of Friday’s games, said his form and determination to win back a spot on the Australian team in a World Cup year had not gone unnoticed.
“He played a smart game in the first game out, he played nice and flat and he was very active in organising the play,” he said in the video posted on the Wallabies Facebook page late Friday.
“But also looking to attack himself a little bit … always with the flair that he brings to the game.
“It is just a matter of him getting more games in the saddle, I think. More opportunities to play at the highest level against the best teams.
“And with that, I have no doubt he will come into strong contention for selection.”
Cheika also praised the early season work of Queensland Reds’ Jordan Petaia and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, and Brumbies halfback Joe Powell, while singling out Angus Scott-Young.
“Really good work ethic and tough around the ball,” he said of Reds forward Scott-Young.
“There are a few players that I have seen in different positions,” Cheika added of the opening Super Rugby rounds.
“Some who have been on the radar, off the radar and now back on it, and some who are just new to Super Rugby and are starting to get their hands dirty in the game and have shown there could be some potential coming through this year.”