Rugby: Wing's injury could save Cooper's skin

Quade Cooper. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Quade Cooper. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A sickening finger injury to rookie winger Dom Shipperley may save playmaker Quade Cooper from being the latest Wallabies star to feel the axe.

Cooper endured a horror first hour at Skilled Park on Saturday night when Argentina threatened to pull off a historic Rugby Championship upset by leading Australia 19-6.

A great escape, thanks to 17 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes, denied the Pumas and spared under-pressure coach Robbie Deans a week of immense scrutiny.

It was Cooper's most error-prone performance of his 38 tests, save for his World Cup quarter-final shocker against South Africa last year, and had Deans seriously considering dragging him from the field.

The talented five-eighths did lace his game with some typically skilful attacking play but was guilty of a string of unforced, fundamental errors that placed huge pressure on the Wallabies.

With the versatile Berrick Barnes making a fine fist of fullback and Kurtley Beale desperate to return from the bench, there's no guarantees Cooper will wear No 10 against the Springboks on September 30 in Pretoria.

It was Shipperley's dislocation and compound fracture which led to Deans sticking with Cooper for the final 20 minutes, where he helped spark the fightback with a deft ball for Pat McCabe to score.

The Queensland winger will be named in the 28-man squad to tour South Africa and Argentina but will race time to be fit, making Beale a likely replacement.

Deans admitted he was most disappointed that Cooper allowed the Pumas the first try after being charged down by Tomas Leonardi.

But he didn't subscribe to the theory Cooper was trying too hard to spark the attack against the fast-rushing Pumas defence, instead pointing to confidence issues after a nine-month rehab from knee surgery.

"We shouldn't underestimate; it does take time to come back from significant injuries like that," Deans said.

James O'Connor's gradual return from a hamstring tear has also given Cooper extra breathing space.

The Wallabies' escape act did move them to second place on the standings, and another victory over the Springboks will virtually ensure they finish the inaugural tournament as runners-up to New Zealand.

- AAP

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