Oval Talk

The future is red and gold

Oval Talk

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It was by no means a classic encounter, but Oval Talk will long remember Australia's narrow victory over Ireland for one piece of magic from coming great Quade Cooper.

OT had seen the future of Wallabies rugby, a player who quite possibly could set new standards in the sport and force coaches to rethink the nature of half-back play.

Having earned rave reviews throughout the Superb 14s for a series of superb performances, the fly-half was again the stand-out performer in the Wallabies' first Test victory over England earlier this month.

He was Australia's most threatening player as England bounced back a week later (even though Matt Giteau scored both Wallabies tries), but it was not until he touched down against Ireland last weekend that OT finally saw what all the fuss was about.

Yes, Cooper had looked on course to become one more in the long line of very good Australian half-backs, but only when he danced through the tackles of Shane Jennings and Rob Kearney to score a try from what seemed an impossible position did the penny finally drop for OT.

That try should not have been scored. OT is not pointing the finger at the Irish pair for letting it happen; more that Cooper had no right to touch down from a standing start with the defence lined up and at such close quarters.

But such was the mesmerising quality of his step/shimmy/jink - call it what you will - that he was able to create something out of nothing. It was pure genius, and OT can think of no other player - bar maybe Jason Robinson at his very best - who could also have scored it.

Many will remember Cooper from the Wallabies' tour of UK and Ireland last November; he looked useful, but did not have too many chances from inside centre to show what a magical playmaker he could be.

But he wore the fly-half jersey for the Reds during the Super 14 and was given the freedom to show his full range of skills.

Not only can he confuse the best defences with his speed and dancing feet, but he also has a superb pass of both hands and a decent boot, whether going long for touch or producing delicate chips and cross kicks for his backs to run on to.

But what most impresses OT is the way the 22-year-old, New-Zealand-born player is able to delay his pass or break until the very last moment.

Yes it's a cliche, but he is one of those players who appears to have more time on the ball than opponents and rivals.

He takes the ball lying incredibly flat and holds it up in front of him in a bid to create that extra half-second of time before choosing what to do.

Defenders are like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car, and more often than not that mesmerising moment allows the Reds star time to perform his magic.

The Super 14 player of the season is a maverick and has not always kept on the right side of the authorities.

A recent driving offense followed a more serious charge of burglary last year, behaviour that would likely have seen him booted out of the international squad had he been English.

Actually, if Cooper were English he would already have been consigned to the folder marked 'maverick' and not given the chance to show what a world beater he is.

So, good on Australia for giving him that chance, and good on them for building their team around him.

If you have any doubts as to Cooper's ability, just take a look at this video of him in action for the Reds against the Sharks last season. Amazing stuff.


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