Wallaby coach Robbie Deans says Quade Cooper’s shortcomings as a player have had a hand in the fall from grace of Reds teammate and former Wallaby centre Ben Tapuai.
Cooper was the most prominent omission from the 25-man Wallaby squad announced on Sunday and Deans has gone on the offensive to explain the reasoning behind the move, which has split rugby fans down the middle.
Deans told Brisbane’s Triple M this morning that Cooper needed to make adjustments in his game, position himself better for contact and allow others to share a load of the playmaking duties.
He used the dramatic slide in form of Tapuai as evidence that Cooper wasn’t hitting the mark.
Tapuai has been replaced in the Reds centres by dynamic youngster Chris F’Sautia and saw just nine minutes off the bench against the Cheetahs.
‘‘It’s not about what Quade does and can do. It’s more about the response of the opposition. And he just needs to adjust the balance of his game a little bit. He needs to be a bit more prepared to take contact and the people around him will thrive,’’ Deans said.
‘‘Benny Taps is evidence of Quade not quite getting that balance right. He’s not thriving outside him. He’s got to be prepared to allow others to do some of the playmaking as well as himself.’’
Deans also said Cooper needed to cut down his turnover rate, which he believes could be achieved by allowing a player like Tapuai to take a bigger load of playmaking duties.
Cooper (27) has the third highest amount of turnovers in Super Rugby, behind Stephen Moore (31) and Deon Fourie (30) from the Stormers. On the flipside, he also leads Super Rugby in offloads (27).
‘‘The game’s about adaptation. It’s a more effective way. You’ve only got to look at the number of turnovers that are coming off Quade as evidence. It allows the opposition to close and produce pressure,’’ Deans said.
‘‘That’s one element in his game, the number of turnovers, we’d like to see him reduce. It’s not that he’s no good – he’s very good – hence I’ve selected him in the past.’’
Despite their rocky history, Deans reiterated that Cooper’s non-selection wasn’t about personal issues but rather that James O’Connor ticked more boxes in his game plan against the Lions.
‘‘The reason we haven’t chosen Quade in this instance is that we believe the balance in James O’Connor’s game suits us more. Every great player goes through these challenges. He (Quade) can do well at that level again. It’s a small adjustment that will make a big difference,’’ Deans said.
‘‘The thing that people need to understand is it has nothing to do with personality. We are tasked with picking the best team that we believe will serve not only the Wallabies but the nation.’’
Deans said the door was still open for Cooper and he could still force his way into the expanded squad over coming weeks.
‘‘We don’t say things for no reason. And we’ve communicated that fact. There’s a couple of rounds of Super Rugby and there’s a great opportunity in the Reds v Lions fixture at Suncorp to show that he’s good for it,’’ Deans said.
With the Reds in Africa preparing to play the Stormers, Deans said he hadn’t spoken to Cooper directly about his omission but had been in regular contact with him throughout the season.
- Brisbane Times