Versatile Wallabies inside back Berrick Barnes has backed Reds playmaker Quade Cooper to come back strong from injury and make the Australian No.10 jersey his own next year.
Cooper hobbled off in the World Cup third-place play-off match against Wales which brought an end to a disappointing tournament, and he is set to spend six months on the sidelines after undergoing knee surgery.
Barnes stepped up in his place and won the man of the match award as the Wallabies clinched the bronze medal and his good form continued on Australia's short year-end tour of the United Kingdom where he played at inside centre with 21-year-old James O'Connor getting his chance to show what he can do at flyhalf.
Cooper's forgettable World Cup, the resurgence of Barnes, and O'Connor's impressive tour as playmaker have left Wallabies coach Robbie Deans with an interesting decision to make when he names his first team for the June internationals next year.
The way that Deans chooses to balance the three obvious talents he has at his disposal could well determine whether they reach their stated aim of displacing the world champion All Blacks as the best team in the world next year.
Barnes for one is not writing Cooper off just yet, as he is convinced that the unpredictable Queensland pivot will bounce back next season.
"At the end of the day you've got to understand that Quade's an outstanding player or prospect at this level, whatever you want to call it," Barnes said at Sydney airport on Tuesday morning.
"Last year he dominated, or earlier this year anyway. Obviously injury has cut him down, and I've been in the same place before as well. So he's going to have time off to get himself right and at the end of the day he should come back better than ever after the time off he's had.," he added.
As Barnes alluded to, he has had his fair share of injury woes with a case of footballers migraine ruling him out of most of the Waratahs' Super Rugby campaign this year and even threatening to end his career for good, so he is just happy to be back in a Wallabies jersey never mind being too picky about what number is on his back.
He said: "After the year I've had it's been great to get back into the Test side and more importantly just to enjoy my footy again and that's been the best thing about it. he said.
"I feel like I can play and be confident out there and I feel like I'm getting back to my best footy in the last couple of games which has been good. There's been a lot of hard work behind closed doors and I'm glad it's paid off now and it's good to have a bit of a break," added Barnes.
Barnes was happy with the combination he struck up with O'Connor on tour and explained that the most pleasing aspect of the Wallabies' performances was how they managed to pull together as a team.
"It seemed to work alright, he [O'Connor] did extremely well in his first sort of outing there at Test level and the boys around him provided that help and the forwards provided that platform for him to be able to show what he can to do.
"Across the board there in Wales everybody played their part in that win and that was the handy thing about it. There weren't any individual (stars), it was more of a team thing and that's the exciting thing moving forward," said Barnes.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.