“It was a great opportunity to be in a top-flight environment after being out of it for so long. I just really enjoyed the opportunity so every time I am here I try and learn as much as I can. I know my days in and around this are quite limited now, as you get older.”
Quizzed about the state of his relationship with Cheika, Cooper said they didn’t have one.
“I didn’t really have much to do with him,” he said.
“I wasn’t really involved in too many of his teams, so I can’t really say too much about him as a coach or as a man outside the rugby life.”
Cheika’s first Test series as the Pumas’ coach in July saw them beat Scotland, and start to resemble one of the former Randwick man’s teams with lots of running, very little kicking and rock solid defence.
“First and foremost, the Argentinians are a very talented team, Cooper said.
“They’re a very difficult team to break down. There are a lot of different styles, most of their players now play in France. Their traditional style is to be quite creative and they’re off the cuff, but they’re also a very physical team.
“You know if you allow them [to] play a lot of football and get their tails up, they’re a hard team to bring down. The most important thing will be to win the physical battle, but then we play our style of game: a fast and creative style as well.”
The Wallabies haven’t played in Argentina in four years and will have to re-acquaint themselves with the boisterous atmosphere generated by Pumas fans. Cooper said he would take that over an empty stadium.
“Personally I think you have to embrace it and enjoy it,” he said.
“A lot of these boys, myself included, would have played during the COVID times when you were playing in front of zero crowd. I can tell you, that’s very difficult to get up for. Playing in front of a packed, hostile crowd, I can tell you which one I enjoy the most.”
Marika Koroibete shared Cooper’s indifference to taking on Cheika, saying it would mean “nothing at all”.
“I just know he is going to rev up the boys, that’s how he is, so it will be very important for us to start well,” Koroibete said.
Cooper also recounted the dramatic scenes in Perth when he picked up a calf injury and withdrew from the team with about 10 minutes to go before kick-off.
“I was warming up and everything was fine,” he said. “I hadn’t had any pre-existing problems with my leg or anything. And at one stage when we were doing a bit of a backs drill I just felt something. I thought maybe my sock was a bit tight. I have never had a soft tissue injury so it was my first. I just felt an odd feeling and knew something wasn’t right.”
“At that point I had to just weigh up in my head how I was going to approach the next little bit. Do I try and run? Try and get out on the field, and let the adrenaline kick in. But I weighed all those things up pretty quickly and decided the best thing to do was rule myself out, and to tell the coach where my head was at and give the team the best opportunity to prepare for the game with 23 players.
“The way I summed up in my head was if I went out onto the field and a minute into the game I tear my calf, well then I would probably out for six to 12 weeks. And straight away our team is down a sub in a very important Test series for us.“
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