Rugby: 'Link' unlocks secret to Cooper's test success

By Jim Morton

Coach Ewen McKenzie first empowered Cooper at the Reds in 2010. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Coach Ewen McKenzie first empowered Cooper at the Reds in 2010. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Ewen "Link" McKenzie unlocked the secret to Quade Cooper long ago and is again reaping rich rewards as the Wallaby playmaker prepares for his 50th rugby test this weekend.

Just 14 months after his career hung by a thread, Tokoroa-born Cooper, 25, will reach his half-century of international caps when he runs out against Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

McKenzie says it's no coincidence that Cooper is playing his best test rugby since his elevation to the Australian vice-captaincy at the start of their European tour late last month.

McKenzie, who first empowered Cooper at the Reds in 2010, knew what he was getting when he shocked many by promoting him to the national team leadership role.

"I worked out early on ... the more responsibility I gave him the better he played, simple as that," he said. "He likes responsibility.

"I was happy to give him responsibility when I think a lot of people probably didn't think that he wanted it."

McKenzie's policy with Cooper has been in contrast to that of predecessor Robbie Deans who gave up on the skilful No10.

While Deans controversially overlooked Cooper for this year's Lions series, McKenzie also surprised by benching him for his first two tests in charge, preferring Matt Toomua to play against New Zealand.

But since then, the newly-appointed vice-captain has improved with every display to have a major hand in eight of the 13 tries the Wallabies have scored in wins over Italy, Ireland and Scotland.

A big part of the Wallabies' resurgence has been due to his playmaking and match-winning chemistry with Israel Folau.

Cooper put Folau over for a try against Scotland with a perfect inside ball and then combined with the fullback and Stephen Moore for a second to Chris Feauai-Sautia.

McKenzie lauded Cooper's communication skills, rugby IQ and vision.

"I watch him train every day and if a player is out of position, if there's 10 players over there and someone is not there, he knows straight away, well before anyone else, even before I know.

"He's just got great vision."

- AAP

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 18 Dec 2014 17:42:02 Processing Time: 884ms