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Rugby Championship: O'Connor backs Cooper to bounce back
The Injured utility back says Quade Cooper will return to full fitness and the Wallaby squad a more determined player.

INJURED WALLABY JAMES O’Connor has backed Quade Cooper to make a swift return after his shock omission from the side to face New Zealand.

Cooper was sensationally overlooked for the Rugby Championship opener against the All Blacks this Saturday, completing a dramatic fall from grace for the flashy fly-half.

The 24-year-old appears to have paid a heavy price for his disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign which ended in a serious knee injury.

But O’Connor has no doubt Cooper will be back in a gold No.10 jumper sooner rather than later.

“He is coming off injury and I know he realises that, he’s got to get fit,” O’Connor said today.

“I know he’s probably in the best shape he’s been in his whole career and one thing is he is very hungry to get back on the field and do some damage.

“His form coming off Super Rugby was probably one of the best out of all the team, he got a couple of man-of-the-match awards from a few performances.

“A guy like Quade, I guess he takes it how it is and it’s just going to drive him and make him more hungry to try and get back on the field and reclaim his jersey.”

Meanwhile, O’Connor is eyeing a return for the Wallabies’ third Rugby Championship fixture against South Africa in Perth on September 8.

The 22-year-old has been sidelined since April after suffering a lacerated liver in a sickening collision with Waratahs star Berrick Barnes in April, before tearing his hamstring in a Wallabies training camp.

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“Everything’s going to plan, rehab’s going nicely,” he said. ”I’m running probably just over 90 percent which is good signs and hopefully I’ll be back as soon as possible.

“We’re trying not to put a date on it because when you rush things, that’s when you can stir up the injury. The way it’s going now, (the Springboks clash) is definitely a possibility. I’d love to play in that Test so I’ll leave it at that.”

O’Connor has spent most of his 36-Test career on the wing but made no secret of his desire to move closer to the action at inside-centre upon his return.

“(Number) 12 would be nice, I just want to be around the ball a bit more,” he said when asked his preferred position.

“I think my strength and what I can give to the team is that second ball player sort of role so I guess that’s where I’d like to play. But in saying that’s it’s wherever you’re selected, if I can be back on the field as soon as possible I’ll be a very happy man.”

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