Rugby Real or Not: Cooper should be Wallabies fly-half for first Test vs. England

We've reached the final regular season round of Super Rugby Pacific, with the final spot in the playoffs still up for grabs.

Meanwhile, the July Test window is edging ever closer with Wallabies coach Dave Rennie and his All Blacks counterpart Ian Foster set to name their squads in a few weeks' time.

Read on as we discuss some of the big talking points in the latest edition of Real or Not.

Quade Cooper is the man to start at fly for the Wallabies against England at fly-half.

Real. If you'd suggested this to me last year, I would have laughed in your face. But such have been the events of the past 12 months that it now looks like Quade Cooper is the clear choice to wear the No. 10 jersey against England. While his withdrawal from the spring tour alongside Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon left an unsavoury taste in the mouth, there is no disputing Cooper's form in the five-game winning streak that netted two wins over the Springboks and Pumas, and a further win over Japan. Cooper's ability to direct the team around the park with his astute kicking game, and not overplay his hand with some of the more outlandish skills of his younger days, gave the Wallabies stability in the playmaking role, something the developing Noah Lolesio was unable to achieve in the Bledisloe Cup.

While Dave Rennie earlier this year hinted James O'Connor was the front-runner to play fly-half against England, the Reds star's latest injury, which will keep him out for up to a month, means he would likely be coming into the first Test without a game for six weeks, having only returned from a knee injury prior to that, too. Cooper has finished up in Japan, meanwhile, having helped drive his Kintetsu Liners into League One, and was spotted working out alongside the LA Giltinis over the weekend. He may be short of a run himself, but he is fit and last year proved he can come in and do a job without a recent game under his belt. It's very much looking like Quade Cooper vs. Marcus Smith at Perth's Optus Stadium come July 2.

Waratahs prop Paddy Ryan deserved a yellow card for his cleanout on Josh Dickson

Not real. I sympathise with the referees, in this case Nic Berry, because they are only acting in accordance with the high tackle/head contact framework legislated by World Rugby. But in what world should Paddy Ryan have missed 10 minutes of Sunday's win over the Highlanders for a head clash that was more Josh Dickson's fault than the Waratahs' prop? Ryan hadn't travelled from distance, had dropped his body height and was looking to wrap his arm for a counter-ruck when Dickson dropped his head at the last second, resulting in their two heads coming together, and the Waratahs prop probably finishing worse off. No, this is just one of those rugby collisions that can't be avoided and needs to be officiated differently from the high tackles or actual dangerous clean-outs that World Rugby is rightfully trying to remove from the game.

Unless a serious rethink of how incidental contact at the breakdown is adjudicated is undertaken next year's World Cup will be hijacked by endless discussions about such collisions, rather than what promises to be one of the tightest fought tournaments yet. If some form of sanction is required, then by all means just penalise it and move on. But teams don't deserve to go a man down when the mitigation is so high that there is barely any fault on the player adjudged to have transgressed. Sort it out, World Rugby.

A 16-5 penalty count against the Brumbies was the reason they lost to the Blues

Not real. The boos were palpable around GIO Stadium as Beauden Barrett was mobbed by his Blues teammates after kicking the match-winning drop goal against the Brumbies. Playing under advantage for a penalty that was right in front of the sticks, the Blues would have likely won anyway even if Barrett had missed his drop goal. In the days that have followed, a disgruntled Brumbies fan has launched a change.org petition calling for the removal of Damon Murphy as a Super Rugby referee after he blew for a 16-5 penalty count in favour of the Blues. That is certainly on the larger ends of a penalty count discrepancy, but it was also not solely responsible for the Brumbies' defeat. Clearly, they had their chances to close out the match and weren't good enough to do so, despite there being some debate over the turnover that gave the Blues their final shot at victory.

As good a side as they are, the Brumbies were unable to successfully string the five, maybe six, phases together that would have taken them to the siren and allowed for the ball to be kicked into touch. It's worth noting, too, that the Blues had dominated large chunks of the match and had been held up over the line three times in the first half. The Brumbies had, in fact, done well to scramble and keep themselves in the contest. On the flipside, the Brumbies should take confidence from the knowledge that if they get things right, and play up to their ability, they are still capable of winning the title even though it will likely take back-to-back wins in New Zealand to do so. But the simple fact of the matter is that on Saturday night they failed to shut the game down when they should have had it won.