Rugby: Cheika denies playing mind games with French

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has denied the notion he was playing mind games with the French over Quade Cooper's selection. Photo / Photosport
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has denied the notion he was playing mind games with the French over Quade Cooper's selection. Photo / Photosport

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has rejected the suggestion he played mind games with the French over the fitness of playmaker Quade Cooper, who was a late scratching from this morning's heart-stopping win.

The Wallabies ruled Cooper out on game day following a fitness test on his ankle, in which Cheika said the 28-year-old was unable to "kick or plant properly on it".

After picking up the injury on Tuesday, Cooper was then named to start at five- eighth ahead of regular No.10 Bernard Foley - who Chieka had hoped would get a rest, after a gruelling season to date.

When Cooper didn't take part in Friday's captain's run, Cheika remained confident he would be able to take the field.

But a training session on Saturday morning (PM in NZT), along with the non-playing members of the squad, put paid to that.

Quizzed on whether the selection - and then game-day scratching - of Cooper had all been a ruse to throw the French off Australia using a Foley-led attack, Cheika went on the offensive.

"Why would I hide playing Bernard Foley? I've never done that before," Cheika said.

"I wanted Quade to play, I'm being honest. There was no communication strategy."

Cheika said he waited until game day at the request of Cooper, who has fallen behind Foley in the pecking order and would desperately have liked to have shown his wares on the big stage at Stade de France.

"Normally we probably wouldn't but because of the way the tour is and how we're looking to give everyone an opportunity I made that decision," Cheika said.

"It didn't pay off because he didn't get to play."

It thrust Foley, who becomes the only Wallaby to have started all 13 Tests this season, into the spotlight and again played a starring role.

The World Cup hero kicked four from five and scored the opening try of the second half, off a short ball from halves parnter Will Genia, to contribute a match-winning 15 points.

"Bernard had to pick that up this morning and he knew the moves and that sort of stuff but there's still a mindset that you have to have to be ready to start a game," Cheika said.

"He did well Bernard, considering."

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