Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper has paid tribute to former All Blacks star and long-time friend Sonny Bill Williams following his match-winning heroics against the Springboks on Sunday.

Cooper completed a fairytale return to test rugby over the weekend as he played a starring role in defeating the world champions by landing the match-winning penalty in injury time to clinch a 28-26 victory on the Gold Coast.

Not only did the successful penalty attempt hand the Wallabies their first victory in the Rugby Championship this year, but it vindicated Cooper’s return to the Australian national set-up after a four-year absence from the green and gold jersey.

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The 33-year-old first-five dominated headlines in the lead-up to the match as all eyes were fixated on him to see how he would fare in his first test match since 2017.

Cool, composed and collected, Cooper rose to the occasion as he landed all eight of his shots at goal and directed the Wallabies around the park with the kind of maturity and leadership that had rarely been seen in his 70 previous tests.

As a result, plenty of the plaudits have gone Cooper’s way in the wake of the upset win, but the man of the hour credited the influence of Williams during his time away from the Wallabies as a key reason behind his rise back into the Australian squad.

Speaking to Channel Nine after the match, Cooper said the guidance of Williams, now working as a panellist for Channel Nine, proved crucial in his international comeback after he was first dropped by the Queensland Reds in 2018.

“I hate to put my brother in the studio on the spot there, but I’m so grateful for him,” Cooper said of Williams.

“When things went a bit pear-shaped a few years ago, he was the first guy to reach out to me. I spent about two-three months with him, just living with him every day and just seeing what it takes to be a good strong man every day.

“You see him with his family, see him with his teammates, the dedication, the hard work that he puts into his day-to-day life.

“Not just when he turns up to footy training, every single day it’s about being a better man, being better for himself and his family and everything else, so I love you, brother, and I appreciate everything you do.”

Cooper has seemingly adopted that mindset and professional approach to his preparation and training, with Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie singing the pivot’s praises since his arrival in the squad.

“He was close to starting the week before, so he earned it [the No 10 jersey],” Rennie told reports after the match.

“He’s been fantastic since he’s come in, he’s contributed massively to discussions, to training, and, based on form, it was hard to leave him out, so I thought he was massive tonight.”

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