The sight of Quade Cooper looking relaxed and intact in Los Angeles last week must have comforted Wallabies coach Dave Rennie on a weekend when injury claimed a raft of other topline Test players.
Cooper dropped into LA Giltinis training for a kickaround with Major League Rugby’s Australian outpost, off duty after leading Japanese side Kintetsu to the division two title in Japan and promotion to the top division League One.
At some point over the next two weeks it is expected he will arrive in Australia ahead of being named in Rennie’s squad to take on England over three Tests in July.
Barring any unforseen hiccups, , with Queensland No. 10 James O’Connor picking up a hamstring strain in their 32-14 win over Moana Pasifika on Friday.
O’Connor will need scans on the leg on Monday, but looked frustrated when he left the field at Suncorp Stadium. Looking on was Rennie, who no doubt is bracing for an attritional final few weeks of Super Rugby Pacific.
Noah Lolesio is still standing – and playing well – for the Brumbies, but the potential loss of O’Connor would be a blow for the Wallabies’ depth as they prepare for Eddie Jones and his England squad.
Elsewhere, in-form NSW centre Izaia Perese is out with a medial ligament strain, his Queensland counterpart Hunter Paisami has also been sidelined, and the Wallabies’ world-class tighthead, Taniela Tupou, is out with a calf injury. Kurtley Beale, returning from France ahead of the England tour, has been out for six weeks after picking up a knee injury with Racing 92. Brumbies back-rower Rob Valetini is out with a hamstring injury, another blow for the Wallabies, but in a position where Australia enjoys some depth.
The Wallabies are hopeful all will be fit again in time for the Test schedule, but there is no doubt Rennie would prefer his players to join the Wallabies match-fit and in form.
Beale will need to play at least one match in France to reassure selectors he is ready to go after a slow start in gold on last year’s autumn tour. Beale was on song against Wales in the final Test in Europe, playing at fullback and combining well with O’Connor at five-eighth, demonstrating the value he can bring to the gold jersey.
Rennie will name his 36-player squad in two weeks’ time, with the group to assemble on the Sunshine Coast mid-next month, during the week of the Super Rugby final.
They will have two weeks together before flying to Perth a few days out from the first Test. Jones will take his squad direct to Perth.