Cheika to stick with Cooper, Foley combo

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says he will persist with Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley as the team’s playmaking axis despite Saturday’s crushing second Bledisloe Cup Test defeat to New Zealand.

Five-eighth Cooper made his return to international rugby after a year-long absence in the 29-9 defeat at Westpac Stadium, while Foley played in the Wallaby No.12 jersey for the first time in his 32-cap career.

The pair had little time to develop their combination with the All Blacks dominating possession, territory and the set piece for almost the entire match.

But with injured trio Matt Toomua, Matt Giteau and Rob Horne not expected to be back for Australia’s next Rugby Championship assignment against South Africa, Cheika said he would be sticking with Cooper and Foley for the foreseeable future.

“The two playmakers didn’t get much of a chance, really,” Cheika said.

“They were trying to work off bits and pieces when they had it and it’s something they’ll have to look at in the review but we’ll be persevering with that.

“We want to build that combination up and work with that.”

As expected, Cooper was booed by the sellout crowd in Wellington nearly every time he touched the ball, but the enigmatic 28-year-old did as much as he could in the circumstances, and even All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he was impressed with his output.

“I think for a guy who hasn’t played for a long time he acquitted himself pretty well,” Hansen said.

“What ball he got was usually in the aerial kick to him and he defused a few of them and did pretty well.

“But it’s not a one-man game, it’s not Quade Cooper against the All Blacks, it’s 23 Australians versus 23 All Blacks.”

The Wallabies are back in action against the Springboks on September 10 at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

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