Australia bad boy Kurtley Beale is a welcome late addition, and not a distraction, to the Wallabies squad on their European tour, their mercurial flyhalf Quade Cooper claimed.
Beale, who was fined a total of A$48,000 (US$41,700) for sending an offensive text message to then-Wallabies business manager Di Patston, and sanctioned again for being rude and disrespectful to the team management, has not played for Australia since the defeat in Cape Town by South Africa on Sept. 27.
However, he received a call-up for the final two Tests last week and Cooper said the 25-year-old utility back was in good spirits as they prepare for the daunting one-off Test with Six Nations champions Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
“From a team point of view he [Beale] offers a lot, everyone’s happy to have him here,” said Cooper, who has been no stranger to controversies in the past. Cheiks [coach Michael Cheika] speaks highly of him and knows his ability as a player.”
Cooper, who was fined a record A$60,000 in 2012 for describing the Wallabies regime under then-coach Robbie Deans as “toxic,” said Beale’s behavior was not up for debate.
“None of us are here to play politicians, or politics, we’re all here with the same focus of improving as a rugby team, and improving as rugby players,” Cooper said.
“From a professional point of view we’re focusing on beating Ireland this week — we know it’s going to be a tough encounter. Kurtley is fine, he’s in good spirits and he’s keen to get out there, train and be a part of the squad,” he said.
Cooper, who at one point deliberated over accepting a lucrative offer to switch to rugby league before opting to remain in union, suffered a shoulder injury in May and lost his place to Bernard Foley as first choice flyhalf.
The New Zealand-born playmaker has been used sparingly on the tour so far, although he sparked a revival from the Wallabies when he came on in the narrow 29-26 defeat by France on Saturday.
However, he spoke glowingly about Cheika, who stepped in when Ewen McKenzie resigned at the end of the Rugby Championship as part of the fallout from the Beale scandal.
“Cheiks’ style of play is about bringing out your best and bringing your strengths to the table and making those strengths seem even stronger than they really are,” Cooper said.
“In terms of the way we are playing it is a lot different to what I am used to, but, at the same time, it is an opportunity to learn. I am loving learning under this environment and hoping I can continue to grow as a player. You don’t want to become stagnant, you always want to improve and I see this as a great opportunity to do that,” he said
Cooper, who also fought in professional boxing bouts and spars with Cheika at training, said the tour could not have come at a more opportune time allowing the players to try and forget about the past few months which also included some poor results with Argentina pulling off a shock win over them.
“With the ups and downs we have had in the past season it is great to be on tour and be with the group for five weeks and have five games, and find our identity as a team, it’s something we are working very hard at,” Cooper said.
“This is an interesting tour. We had a good start against the Barbarians and Wales, and a tough game against the French. We are looking to play very hard and improve as a team,” he said.
While Cooper said Cheika’s inside knowledge of Irish rugby — he coached Leinster to their first European Cup win — would be useful, he believed the best way to beat Ireland was by nullifying the threat of his opposite number Jonathan Sexton.
“He’s such a class act, I have always enjoyed playing against him personally,” Cooper said.
“For me I love the way he plays, not a traditional Irish flyhalf who sits in the pocket and kicks, he loves to run, he loves to have a few little trick plays. Being shortlisted for IRB player of the year is well deserved. Hopefully we can overcome him on Saturday,” he said.
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