Australia coach Eddie Jones does not expect key Wallabies duo Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi to hit peak form until September’s Rugby World Cup as he looks to avoid a third loss in a row when his team take on in-form New Zealand in Melbourne on July 29.
The Australians have lost both of Jones’ games since he returned for a second stint in charge this year, with South Africa defeating the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener before a late reversal last week against Argentina.
“We’ve got a number of players coming back from long-term injuries and we know those players, as much as we’d like them to be at their best now, they’re not going to be at their best until the World Cup,” said Jones.
“We’ve got a plan in place to get each player back to their best. This is part of the process.”
Flyhalf Cooper was out for almost a year after rupturing an Achilles tendon last August while Kerevi is continuing his journey to full fitness having torn a cruciate ligament playing Sevens for Australia last year.
“They need time to train, they need time to get their feeling for the game back,” Jones said. “I’ve got no doubt they’ll be back at their best for the World Cup.
“With better exposure to better training and rugby training over the next period of time they’re going to get a lot sharper.”
Both Cooper and Kerevi are in contention to feature against the All Blacks at the MCG next Saturday but co-captain Michael Hooper is a doubt after being sidelined for the Argentina loss due to a calf injury.
“We haven’t been good enough in the first two games, so I’m still searching for what our best team is, that’s quite obvious,” said Jones, who’s side are bottom of the Rugby Championship standings.
“I’ve only have the players for a short period of time and I need to find out what are our best combinations.”
New Zealand top the standings after dominant back-to-back victories over Argentina and South Africa, but Jones insists his focus is on addressing the Wallabies’ issues.
“We’re not too worried about New Zealand at this stage,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to work out ourselves, we’re trying to work out our best game plan.
“Our aim is to put them under pressure early in the game and see how they cope with pressure on them, because they haven’t had it yet.”