Underfire coach looks to Quade Cooper for spark
WALLABIES coach Ewen McKenzie brushed aside reports he was set to be dumped after Saturday's Bledisloe Test with the feared All Blacks as he recalled the unpredictable Quade Cooper to his bench for his first international of the season.
He also elevated game-shy Christian Leali'ifano to his starting 15 as inside centre alongside 100-gamer Adam Ashley-Cooper for the suspended Kurtley Beale.
McKenzie again denied having an intimate relationship with former Wallaby business manager Di Patston, who resigned after the Beale texting scandal which has also sparked speculation about the careers of both player and coach.
"Suddenly she (Patston) is on the outer and under massive pressure, heavily medicated and under a fair bit of media scrutiny which I find ... incredible," said McKenzie, who is trying to prepare for a Bledisloe Cup clash which has almost been forgotten. "If you Google her (Patston's) name, it will be difficult for her to get a job, so I think it's been a really difficult time.
"The speculation about my job is not in the front of my mind, I've got other issues going on and I'd like to make sure I am attending to things that are important."
Cooper, meanwhile, was excited to be back in the Wallabies fold after almost six months out following shoulder surgery.
His uncanny knack of pulling out something special against the All Blacks, especially at the famous Brisbane ground, will be something McKenzie will be banking on.
"Quade has had a lot of great memories at Suncorp Stadium and we'll be looking for him to provide the same impact should he get called on late in the game," the coach said.
Cooper proved a match-winner the last time he played a Test against the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium in 2011 when the Wallabies last won a Bledisloe Cup match, the game in which he became New Zealand's public enemy number one for kneeing Richie McCaw.
The All Blacks will be looking to strike back against Australia after their magical record 22-game Test streak ended recently at the hands of South Africa.
Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (capt), Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Saia Fainga'a, James SlipperReserves: Josh Mann-Rae, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Matt Hodgson, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Rob Horne