Quade Cooper back enjoying club success with Toulon after World Cup disappointment
Australian says he hoped for more game time during the Wallabies’ RWC campaign
Mercurial Quade Cooper was little used at the World Cup, Australia coach Michael Cheika opting for the steadier game of an in-form Bernard Foley as the Wallabies finished runners-up to trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand after a fine campaign.
But Cooper said the frustration of not pulling on the green and gold jersey as much as he would have liked to at the World Cup was well and truly behind him as he started his Top 14 adventure in Toulon’s emphatic 52-8 victory over Montpellier on Saturday.
“I was disappointed not to get more game time at the World Cup,” admitted the New Zealand-born Cooper, who looked fit playing the full 80 minutes at a sun-kissed Stade Felix-Mayol in southern France.
“I’ve been training for the last 12 weeks to play games. I wanted to come here as soon as possible after the World Cup to play rugby.
“I was very happy and fortunate to play today. The players around me, well there are world class players there and they made the transition very easy, so I just had to fit in there and try and add my own personal touches to that.
“You always expect more of yourself. But each week you have to fit in around the team and this week I didn’t have to do any more. A lot of the guys were playing some very good football so first game in, I was just riding off the back of that.
“I was just very happy to be able to contribute, to be able to set up some guys for some tries and do my part in the team.”
Cooper flourished behind a dominant pack, Fijian winger Josua Tuisova scoring a second-half hat-trick as the home side ran in eight tries to one for a well-deserved bonus point.
But the fly half acknowledged that one personal touch had gone astray, a forced pass allowing Julien Malzieu to sprint away for an intercept try that kept Montpellier in the game, albeit briefly.
“I was disappointed (with the interception), but I had faith in our team that we were on the right track. I knew I had to simplify things for our team!” the former Queensland Reds player said.
“At the end of the day it’s about winning the game and working on my game. I’ll continue to work on it so I get better and the team gets better.
“The team, the forwards did everything to make my day very easy and one that I’ll remember and enjoy for the rest of my life.”
Cooper, 27, said the game had differed slightly from Super Rugby.
“The game was a little bit different, very physical,” he said.
“There was a lot of space out there, but credit to our forward pack. The way our forwards played the game today created a good platform.
“In any rugby, whether it’s international, Super Rugby, European Cup or French Top 14, if your forwards do a great job, then it’s always going to be a nice day at the office.”
Toulon might have been missing the likes of Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Ma’a Nonu, Leigh Halfpenny, Duane Vermuelen, Paul O’Connell, Frederic Michalak and James O’Connor, but they could still afford to field a star-studded team packed with experienced internationals.
And Cooper’s task ahead will be trying to nail down a regular starting spot for the big games as coach Bernard Laporte rotates his squad in his bid to settle on a team to extend the club’s European domination and reclaim the Top 14 crown.
That will likely pitch him in direct competition with former Wallaby teammate Giteau, with Mitchell and O’Connor also due back from World Cup duty.
“They’re some of my close mates and I’ve played a lot of rugby with them,” Cooper said.
“They’re very good players and I’m excited to play alongside them again.
“At the World Cup they were telling me stories about here in Toulon, the rugby and everything to expect, so I’m looking forward to sharing some great memories alongside some good friends.”