Bernard Foley says his head-to-head battle with Quade Cooper for the Wallabies No.10 jersey at last year’s World Cup made him a better player.
Foley is Australia’s undisputed first-choice five-eighth heading into the three-Test series against England, which begins on Saturday night in Brisbane.
But it’s a mantle he had to fight tooth and nail for after he and Cooper effectively took turns auditioning in front of Michael Cheika in the months-long lead-up to the World Cup for the vacant role of chief playmaker.
Cheika gave both ample opportunity to prove themselves worthy, but Foley edged out the mercurial Cooper and went on to star in Australia’s run to the final against New Zealand – his highlight at the World Cup a 28-point performance against England, which should hold him in reasonably good stead for the month to come.
Looking back, Foley says he can recognised how the trials and tribulations of the process shaped him.
“I think definitely that was ‘Cheik’s’ plan not to let anyone get settled or complacent,” he said.
“I really think it was a good growth for myself in just competing and having to work for every session, as every player did leading up to that World Cup.
“The team was really building at that stage and that was the pleasing thing – seeing the growth we had in us and building that identity and belief.
“Quade’s a quality player and he got the nod for a couple of those games.
“It was great to see him do well but for me, I want to be in that No.10 jersey for every game.”
Foley will face even greater responsibility this series was Cheika toys with his midfield set-up, with speculation mounting Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani will team up in a big-bodied centre combination.
That would rob him of the comfort of having a second playmaker at No.12, but provide Australia with brute force through the middle, which may come in handy if England coach Eddie Jones throws Ben Te’o a debut at Suncorp Stadium.