SYDNEY Aug 13 2012
Wallabies halfback Will Genia says Quade Cooper is fit and ready to go, but believes Berrick Barnes has earned the right to retain five-eighth duties for Saturday's Test against New Zealand.
Cooper has missed Australia's past five Tests since requiring surgery for a knee injury he suffered in the bronze medal match at last year's Rugby World Cup.
The 24-year-old pivot played in five of Queensland's Super Rugby games and has also turned out for his Brisbane club.
Not considered ready for Australia's four June Tests, Cooper had to watch Barnes star against the Welsh.
There were also injuries to other five-eighth candidates James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale and uncapped Christian Lealiifano.
Barnes is tipped to retain the No.10 jersey when the team for Australia's Rugby Championship opener is announced on Tuesday.
"Quadey has done a lot of work in terms of getting his body right and I think he is fit, he is ready to go," Genia told reporters on Monday.
"It's just a matter of whether you'd be willing, I guess, to put him into a Test match straight up and play 80 minutes against the All Blacks.
"I think that's more a call for (Wallabies coach) Robbie (Deans) than anyone else.
"From a player's point of view, it would be obviously great having him (Cooper) there, but Barnesy did a great job against Wales and in all fairness, I guess, probably deserves first crack at that No.10 jersey."
There will be at least two changes to the side that completed a three-Test whitewash of Wales due to injuries to No.8 Wycliff Palu and inside centre Pat McCabe.
Dave Dennis is likely to fill the vacant back row spot, while Anthony Faingaa is considered a strong chance of replacing McCabe.
Having played every minute of Queensland's Super campaign and Australia's four June Tests, Genia is refreshed again after three weeks without match play.
"I definitely appreciated the time off. I haven't lost any fitness, any conditioning, I've been working pretty hard," said Genia, Australia's 2012 Super Rugby player of the season.
He identified winning the battle at the breakdown as a key factor against the All Blacks.
"They tend to dominate there which gives them good, clean quick ball and they tend to stifle a lot of opposition ball because they are so good in that area," Genia said.
"We've identified that as a big focus in the last couple of weeks and leading into this game and that's an area where we're going to have to dominate if we are going to do well against them."
Genia said the players were driven by the desire to win back the Bledisloe Cup after a decade-long drought, but felt it would take something "very special" to do that.
He dismissed any suggestion Australia would be looking to avenge their World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand last year.
"No, that's completely irrelevant. It's a new group, compared to the group that played in the World Cup last year," Genia said.
Adrian Warren - AAP
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