Reborn Cooper earns shock Wallaby recall

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Quade Cooper "carved up" Dave Rennie's Super Rugby-winning Chiefs two years straight nearly a decade ago, so maybe it's a good thing the recalled Wallabies No.10 isn't saying he's a better player now.

A shock call up to play against world champions South Africa on Sunday in his first Test since 2017, 33-year-old Cooper instead says his efforts have gone into becoming a better man.

Frozen out by Brad Thorn at the Queensland Reds four years ago, the mercurial playmaker enjoyed a one-season cameo with Melbourne Rebels before seemingly ending any hopes of a Wallabies return by joining second-tier Japanese club Kintetsu Liners.

Social media pot shots at Thorn and outgoing Wallabies coach Michael Cheika ensured Cooper's exit wasn't silent.

He's apparently a new man though, reflecting on his development on Friday after being selected as starting five eighth ahead of young incumbent Noah Lolesio and fellow veteran James O'Connor, who has only returned to camp this week after a groin injury saw him miss all six Tests this year.

"I never said I was a better than what I was," he said when asked what's changed since 2017.

"One thing I know for certain is that I've put a lot of work into being a better man each day."

The Rugby Championship clash will be his first competitive hit out since April, although he got through 60 minutes of unofficial action last week against the Western Force.

"It (selection) just means something totally different to what it used to, in terms of who I am," the 70-Test veteran said.

"(The personal change) wasn't done with the idea of getting back into this arena, it was just quality of life.

"Making changes and growing as a person, getting my life in place where rugby, or being a Wallaby, doesn't define who I am.

"Before that, that's all I knew. Everything I did was basically with the mask or identity of 'Quade Cooper the Wallaby'.

"Waking up and looking to win the day through discipline, great habits and the flow-on effect has allowed me the opportunity to get back here."

Wallabies coach Rennie said it was a form-based selection, with Cooper's kicking game vital against a huge South African pack that will sweat on mistakes made by the more-expansive Australians on the Gold Coast.

"We (the Chiefs) won it in 2012 and 2013 but we lost both years to the Reds and Quade carved us up both times," Rennie said of his memories of a Super Rugby-era Cooper.

"It's a wee while ago but his ability ... really stood out.

"I've got to know him really well over the last few weeks; he's grown up, matured and is desperate for another opportunity."

The Wallabies are set to play a near full-strength Springboks side, headlined by the return of Faf De Klerk and Duane Vermeulen, huge front and backrows and six forwards on the bench.

"If we just get into a straight arm wrestle with the Boks they're tough to beat," Rennie said.

"We'll get a bit of ball in our hands, how we use it is going to be important."

In other changes, Angus Bell, 20, will make his starting debut in the front row and World Cup lock Izack Rodda returns to the starting team in place of injured Darcy Swain (foot) while hooker Feleti Kaitu'u and flanker Rob Leota could make Test debuts off the bench.

The back three is unchanged, with Reece Hodge named as cover on the bench in what could be his 50th Test.

In his 112th Test, the match will also see Michael Hooper overtake George Smith as the fifth most capped Wallaby of all time.

AUSTRALIA: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Tate McDermott, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper( capt), Lachlan Swinton, Matt Philip, Izack Rodda, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga'a, Angus Bell. Res: Feleti Kaitu'u, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

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