Sport Rugby

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Millennium thriller offers template for game as Cooper proves he can lead Wallabies to World Cup

Wallabies fly half Quade Cooper
Wallabies fly half Quade Cooper
Tony Ward

Tony Ward

IT was a privilege to witness a mini-classic at the Millennium Stadium, where the Wallabies made it eight wins on the bounce against the Welsh.

Nothing unusual about that, you might say but, in a belter of a game, the most unusual statistic was that the first scrum did not form until the 46th minute.

Yes, you read that right – more than an entire half without the dreaded scrum.

Take a bow Wayne Barnes and everyone involved as, for the second week running, we were treated to an enthralling northern hemisphere-southern hemisphere encounter. The English referee was every bit as central to the fluidity as Nigel Owens had been the week before.

Quite apart from the high quality of refereeing, it makes you think just how good the game could be minus that dreaded 's' word – there were only six scrums in all. The quality of play on both sides was mesmerising, as the intensity of Dublin six days before was matched tackle for tackle and breakdown for breakdown.

This inter-hemisphere autumn series just grows in attraction by the year. And while it's probably unfair to single out one individual, it would be remiss not to mention the performance of the Wallaby sorcerer-in-chief, Quade Cooper (pictured).

His "toxic" comments about the atmosphere within the Wallabies squad at the end of the 2012 Rugby Championship were inappropriate and way out of order. He was rightly suspended but, in all honesty, when you weigh up James O'Connor – so far out of his depth wearing 10 at this level – against the natural out-half that is Cooper, you really have to wonder about Robbie Deans.

You have to question what planet the former Australia coach was inhabiting when not meeting up and sorting it out with the Reds out-half ahead of a Lions series that only comes around every 12 years.

It prompts the question whether, had the Kiwi passed on his pride, would Ewen McKenzie be in situ and the Wallabies on the upward curve they assuredly are now?

Fancy a long-range punt for the World Cup two years out?

Irish Independent

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