September 03, 2021
Fiji-born Olympian Samu Kerevi and Quade Cooper will start for the Wallabies in the third Bledisloe match against the All Blacks on Sunday.
The duo has not played in Australia in recent years — Cooper has been playing in Japan since 2019 while Kerevi since 2020.
Cooper was recalled by coach Dave Rennie under the current overseas player eligibility allowances, having played 70 Tests, while Kerevi met the Wallabies in Perth having completed quarantine with the Australian Sevens side after Tokyo Olympics.
Kerevi has played only half the required 60 Tests to qualify for overseas-based selection.
But there has been ample time for speculation about the prospects of both Kerevi and Cooper playing this Sunday.
In fairness, Rennie himself has partly fuelled the chatter, lauding Kerevi's experience and work ethic since joining the Wallabies squad.
"Obviously, he played over [Japanese powerhouse side] Suntory. A good mate of mine, Jason O'Halloran, coaches over there and he gave me some really positive feedback around Samu's preparation and the detail around him trying to be better each day and we're seeing it in our squad," Rennie said late last week,” Rennie told rugby.com.au.
"I know he's done a lot of work at Suntory, as well as his kicking game, on his distribution and as we know he can be direct and has an ability to offload beyond the tackler.”
"He's been working really hard on the defensive side of his game and so it's been a real credit to him."
For one thing, Kerevi hasn't played since the Top League Final in Japan in late May, with his most recent outings a couple of cameo Sevens appearances in Tokyo.
His Wallabies knowledge will be limited to two-year-old memories and whatever he's managed to pick up over the last couple of weeks in camp.
Rennie was similarly generous in his praise for Cooper.
"Look, he's been fantastic in the group, Can't speak highly enough of him.”
"His ability for pass selection or kicking options has been spot on and really good from a training perspective for us. He's pretty much been running the New Zealand plays.”
"He's been great, and he's applying pressure on us for selection."
Including them both would be extremely rough on the incumbent players in the squad who really haven't done a whole lot wrong.
By Romeka Romena