Quade Cooper launches Wallabies' weapons
November 11, 2013
Quade Cooper produced a strong performance in Turin © Getty Images
Quade Cooper produced his best Test display since his ill-fated Rugby World Cup 2011 campaign as the Wallabies released the pressure valve with a 50-20 tour demolition of Italy, combining beautifully with his backline to cut Italy's defence to ribbons in Turin on Saturday.
The seven-try rout was a crucial result for Australia as they desperately needed to put their European tour back on course after their 20-13 defeat by England.
Stephen Moore, Israel Folau, Tevita Kuridrani, Michael Hooper, James Slipper and two-try hero Nick Cummins were among the stars at Stadio Olympico, but Cooper, enjoying his extra responsibilities as vice-captain, led the way by setting up three of the five Wallabies tries as the tourists' pack neutralised the Italian scrum threat for a 33-10 lead in his hour on the field.
Cooper produced deft passes for tries to Ben Mowen and Adam Ashley-Cooper, but his skills were illustrated best when he set up winger Nick Cummins' second five-pointer. It was a reminder of Cooper's best dazzling play from the 2011 Super Rugby season as he bewildered four defenders with a series of jinking steps and dummies from a kick return before finding an unmarked Cummins.
"He confused some of their blokes, some of our blokes, definitely me," Cummins said. "At the end, the ball landed in my lap. There was no one there. He bamboozled everyone and I was left all alone by myself."
Cooper, who started his return to form in the 54-16 thumping of Argentina in Rosario, was particularly pleased by the Wallabies' teamwork to scorch a side that beat France and Ireland, and also pushed England, at home this year.
"In recent times, that was probably one of my best games," he said. "Out on the field, I felt good; but the team felt good as a whole and that's the most important thing. From an attack point of view, that really helps, having full confidence in the players around you and them having full faith in you."
Mowen was full of praise for the Wallabies' front-row, and Folau, who regularly exploited holes in Italy's fast-rushing defence off Cooper and Matt Toomua passes. But no one in the camp is getting carried away after just their third win in nine Tests under Ewen McKenzie. The Wallabies are yet to win back-to-back this year, and Ireland loom as far tougher opponents in Dublin.
McKenzie said: "I won't feel things are back on track until we bunch a string of wins together."
Australia produced a solid winning effort in Turin (video available only in Australia)
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter