New Wallabies coach recalls Quade Cooper

New coach Ewen McKenzie names flyhalf in his squad to prepare for the Rugby Championship

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 5:32am

Flyhalf Quade Cooper came in from the cold yesterday when Ewen McKenzie named his first squad as Wallabies coach after replacing Robbie Deans in the wake of the series defeat by the British & Irish Lions.

A quarter of McKenzie's 40-man squad for the Rugby Championship are uncapped, with ACT Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua and New South Wales Waratahs number 10 Bernard Foley among them.

James Horwill will captain the Wallabies, who open the championship, which also includes South Africa and Argentina, on August 17 against New Zealand in Sydney.

"If you have a look, there is a bunch of guys coming into the squad who are all playmakers and the way we want to look at playing the game, we want to be able to move the ball around the park," McKenzie said.

"You need a good passing game, you need good vision. They are all attributes of the guys we've included in the squad so there's a bunch of guys who can deliver in that space, so that's what we are going to invest in."

It would be a major surprise, however, if Cooper was not named in the playmaker role for the opening test of the tournament against the All Blacks.

New Zealand-born Cooper's relationship with his former Queensland Reds coach McKenzie is as close as it was frosty with Deans.

Cooper fell out spectacularly with Deans and has not played test rugby since facing Argentina last September, missing the November tour through injury and being excluded from the side for the Lions' tour.

"Everyone talks about Quade, but I'm interested in depth," McKenzie said. "There's players not even in that 40 who we are interested in, there's a bunch of young players we could have put in, but they are not quite ready for the task yet.

"We need to have genuine pressure in every position and I am concerned that some of the positions are not as deep as we'd think."

James O'Connor, who played at flyhalf against the Lions, was included in the squad but listed as a winger-fullback.

"That's where I see him primarily, I think he can play a bunch of positions, but that's where we'll focus," McKenzie said.

Versatile back Berrick Barnes, winger Drew Mitchell and lock Sitaleki Timani, who are all leaving Australia to play abroad at the end of the year, were left out of the squad.

"I'm very particular about investing in guys who are investing in the space all year round," McKenzie said. "In the end, I'll keep looking for the next guy."

There was a place in the squad for former rugby league international winger Israel Folau, who made a stunning test debut against the Lions and is reported to be set to sign on for another two years in union.

"I am conscious of some very positive dialogue going on," ARU chief Bill Pulver said. "I'm hoping it's imminent but it's not done. I'm confident."

Fullback Kurtley Beale, flankers David Pocock and Scott Higginbotham, centre Pat McCabe, winger Digby Ioane and number eight Wycliff Palu were not considered because of injury.

Beale will have shoulder surgery later this week and miss the rest of the year but Palu could play a role later in the season depending on how quickly he recovers from knee surgery.

The other uncapped players are winger Peter Betham, centres Chris Feauai-Sautia and Tevita Kuridrani, locks Scott Fardy and Hugh Pyle, loose forward Jake Schatz, prop Scott Sio and scrumhalf Nic White.

The players will assemble for a five-day camp on August 5 and McKenzie will announce a smaller squad on August 9, a week before the first of back-to-back tests against the All Blacks which begin their campaign.