Quade Cooper says he has no return date as point guard opens up on road to the Rugby World Cup, Australian rugby

Quade Cooper says his rehabilitation from a ruptured Achilles has been “great”, but the point guard “can’t say” when he will return to the playing field.

Cooper played less than an hour of Test rugby in 2022, as his Test season was cruelled first by a calf niggle in the minutes before the Wallabies’ season opener against England and, later, by a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in the second half against Argentina in the first match of The Rugby Championship on August 7.

The 34-year-old’s injury has left a big cloud hovering over the Wallabies heading into the World Cup year.

With just five Tests before the Wallabies’ World Cup opener against Georgia in Paris on September 9, it means Dave Rennie will have very little time to establish combinations across his backline.

Rennie is banking on Cooper being fit and ready for the tournament opener.

Quade Cooper revealed he has no return date despite being invited to the Wallabies’ January training camp at Sanctuary Cove on January 12, 2023. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

It’s understood Rennie sees Cooper head and shoulders above the rest of the No.10 options at his disposal, including Bernard Foley who played six of the final seven Tests in 2022, and strongly values ​​the veteran’s deep understanding of how to steer a rugby team around the park.

Whether Cooper steps foot on a rugby pitch in a professional game before the Test season starts in July remains to be seen.

“I haven’t set a date,” Cooper told reporters before the Wallabies broke up following a four-day training camp on the Gold Coast.

“I’m not too worried if I play or don’t play, the goal would be to be able to play for my Japanese club.

“We’ve got a fair few games ahead of us. The season is a whole lot longer than the previous three seasons that I’ve been a part of, so there’s plenty of football to be played.”

Pressed on whether fans should get excited about the prospect of seeing him pull on the boots before the Wallabies’ season opener against the Springboks in South Africa, Cooper remained tight-lipped on a return to play date.

“I honestly can’t say,” Cooper insisted.

“And that’s not me trying to sort of play hide and go seek or anything like that. It’s just that I genuinely don’t know.

“Ideally, I’ll be playing some football in Japan for my club Kintetsu Liners and that’ll be the best possible outcome.

“If I’m able to do that, I’ll be in a place to be selected for the TRC based on my performances.”

Samu Kerevi and Quade Cooper during an Wallabies training camp at Sanctuary Cove on January 12, 2023. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Rather than completing his rehabilitation in Japan, Cooper, as well as Suntory-based Wallaby Samu Kerevi, has been building back to fitness at the Queensland Academy of Sport.

Cooper, whose career has been dogged by injuries since his devastating knee-injury in the bronze medal match against Wales in 2011, said he planned to start running by the end of the month but gave hope of appearing sooner rather than later by saying his rehab has been a “smooth journey” thus far.

“This type of injury, in my opinion, has been one of the easiest I’ve had throughout my career,” he said.

“It’s just a time thing. The first three months are the most difficult part where you have to sit relatively still and find ways to continue to improve as an athlete and find ways as a person to enjoy your life with the confines of being on crutches and a little scooter, which is very helpful.”

Cooper said he was positive about making a successful comeback and brushed away any thought of mental scarring from his latest setback.

“I have no doubts of a comeback to some type of football or whatever that may be,” he said.

“The process of this whole journey has been more so about my discipline and the habits that I choose to work on as a person, and those things are everyday things.

“The better I am, the more disciplined I am around who I am, how I act, the better the outcome will be with this injury.

“I’m not at all worried about coming back from it, or how well I’ll play, I’m just enjoying the journey so far.”

Quade Cooper of Australia is tackled by Santiago Carreras of Argentina during The Rugby Championship between Argentina Pumas and Australian Wallabies at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on August 06, 2022 in Mendoza, Argentina.  (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

Quade Cooper was injured against Argentina in his one and only Test of 2022. Photo: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images

Much of the Wallabies’ camp was about providing feedback to the players about what they must do to make the 33-man squad for the World Cup.

It was also about getting through some of the “admin work” so that when the Wallabies regroup later in the year they don’t have as many off-field distractions.

“It’s been really good to connect with some coaches and get some really crucial feedback in what will help us this year, our end goal is to win a World Cup,” fit-again prop Angus Bell said.

The Wallabies were also dealing with the departure of highly regarded assistant coach Scott Wisemantel, who resigned earlier in the year.

Cooper said he had little idea about who might replace his portfolio, but the experienced Wallabies, who is bidding to play in his third World Cup, said the experienced coach would leave a void on and off the training paddock.

“As a player, I’m not too sure what’s happening around that, and that’s not a decision for me to make,” he said.

“It’s a huge loss having Wisey depart the group. He was a guy that I got along with very well.

“I loved his philosophy around the game. As a man, he was a guy who had some great philosophies on life and I always enjoyed having a yarn with him and I’ll continue to keep in touch with him throughout the year, and I’m sure that we’ll touch base and catch up in around these camps.”

The Wallabies will regroup with their Super Rugby franchises ahead of the February 24 start date.

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