Quade Cooper has spoken out for the first time about his World Cup snubbing and why the campaign went disastrously wrong, Eddie Jones’ statement that he wasn’t the right role model for the team and what the future holds for him in the Wallaby gold.
In an extensive interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Cooper painted a grim picture of a coach out of touch with his players and the demands of the international game and one who put his faith in assistants Cooper believed were out of their depth.
Jones was criticised for his mad scientist approach to building a coaching team – and Cooper weighed in on that.
“Key individuals around Eddie lacked significant expertise. As players, we tried to buy into what he was preaching, as not doing so would paint us as a detriment. However, common sense was hard to ignore, and it was remarkable that Rugby Australia couldn’t see it,” Cooper said.
“For instance, Jason Ryles, a rugby league prop, served as an attack coach for the Wallabies at a World Cup. How much did he truly know about rugby attack? That encapsulated the situation. Many rugby coaches could have excelled in that role and I really feel for those guys who were overlooked, especially those who have sacrificed so much just to be dismissed for a rugby league prop.”
Cooper said Jones wasn’t ready to listen to the players: “We have a lot of really talented players with great rugby IP, and I certainly enjoyed some of the conversations we had. But at the end of the day, he wasn’t receptive to new ideas, which is why I found it hard to believe he questioned myself, Hoops’, and Foles’ desire to win.”
Cooper called out Jones for his loyalty failure in walking out less than a year into his five-year deal to coach in Japan.
“It’s an interesting thing. Coaches ask a lot of players. I sat in on meetings and the coaches asked players to show loyalty for the country. It’s quite a tough pill to swallow when you see some of the things that have transpired over the past few months,” Cooper said.
“Players get one opportunity to play for Australia. I can’t change allegiances tomorrow if I wanted to. That’s an interesting aspect of a coach. It’s basically a merry-go-round. I just feel for the players. It’s the players who always draw the short straw. There was a lot asked of the players and put to us about our commitment to Australia and the cause of the World Cup.”
He said Jones’ talks with Japan before the World Cup were well known in Japan rugby circles.
“A lot of the Japanese players here said, ‘Oh, this is quite old’. They all knew about it. They were like, ‘You guys didn’t know about it?’ We were like, ‘Nah, this is crazy, we’re just hearing about it’. It was only a few weeks earlier that I was in Wallabies camp. Some of the things asked from a commitment standpoint … that raised a lot of questions,” said Cooper.
Cooper was brought back into the fold by Dave Rennie before quicky discarded by Jones. The Japan-based playmaker obviously still feels for the Kiwi coach who was shoved aside to make way for the return of Jones.
“It was a really difficult situation for the players. [Rennie] has a great rugby IQ. We were so across the detail. It gave you the ultimate confidence,” said Cooper.
“That was one of the things I struggled with in these last six months leading into the World Cup was we didn’t really have a plan. We had some great communication and talking around the game, but when you go into a game with no real plan or structure and no system, that makes it really difficult as a playmaker. Everybody is looking to each other. Are you going to do that? Am I in that ruck? It was quite tough.”
Cooper, 35, said he would continue to try to represent the Wallabies.
“If you’re playing the game, you always want to represent your country. That is the highest honour. That passion will never fade,” Cooper said.
“Those are the things that are out of your control, no matter how much you want to do something. I can control being on the field and playing well. I love playing for my country and it’s been a huge honour. I feel I’m still one of the best players in Australia.”
As for the next coach, Cooper namechecked Dan McKellar, who continues to be linked to the role despite stating that he is staying at Leicester Tigers for now.
“There’s a lot of great coaches out there. I’m not too sure who is in the running or who wants to take it. I imagine after some of the things that have happened over the last 12 months, it’s going to be interesting to see who throws their hand up and who wants to take on that challenge,” Cooper said.
“Dan McKellar’s name was thrown out there. From my time with him and Dave Rennie, he was a phenomenal talent in terms of attention to detail. As a player, that was a huge difference. With Dave and Dan, you went into games with all the answers.
“It’s like going into a written test with a cheat sheet. That’s why during my time with those guys, and Scott Wisemantel as well, we had a clear plan. We came away with results in that period. Whoever steps in next, from a player’s perspective, all you would ask for is the commitment and that same level of detail that is expected from players. That’s for the powers that be above my pay grade.”