Bernard Foley has welcomed the prospect of Quade Cooper renewing their rivalry for the Wallabies five eighth role, admitting Australia has lacked playmaking depth.
Cooper made his early departure from French club Toulon official when he tweeted a farewell on Wednesday and he’s set to return to Australia, where the Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels are among prospective suitors.
Foley held out Cooper for the Wallabies starting spot at last year’s World Cup and had no concerns about resuming their selection duel.
“It’s great for Australian rugby having a player of the calibre of Quade coming back,” Foley said.
“Competition has always been healthy between the two of us and between all the tens (five eighths) in Australia.
“We had good competition last year, and just in training when there was 15 on 15 we were pushing each other at all times.
“This year I suppose we have lacked a bit of depth in that playmaker role, especially those first couple of Tests (against England), we were quite limited.”
Foley defended his Wallabies and NSW Waratahs halves partner Nick Phipps, who has come in for plenty of public criticism for erratic passing and errors in the Test series loss to England and since.
“There’s no question that Nick’s performances, his efforts in his games have always been there, that’s something that never changes,” Foley said.
“There’s been times there where the pack was probably going backwards and the heat was on the halfback.
“You can’t really blame the halfback there, he’s doing the best he can to get those passes away.”
Foley contested the assertion of England skills coach and former Wallabies fullback Glen Ella that basic skill levels of Australian players weren’t good enough.
“I don’t think our skill level is down,” Foley said.
“You look after every training, there’s blokes working on their skills, blokes consistently doing extra.
“At the Wallaby level that’s something that (assistant coach) Stephen Larkham really puts a high priority on, so it’s not a lack of skill or from a lack of guys working on that at training or practising it.”