The 23-year-old Dorking native has played in all of the Club’s Aviva Premiership games so far and having signed as a relative unknown from Cardiff University, he’s relishing the chance to take on Leicester Tigers this Sunday at Adams Park.
“I certainly didn’t expect to be playing this much so soon, but Dai Young has worked incredibly hard with me and had had a lot of faith in me and I am learning a rapid amount in a short space of time here. Once you get an opportunity you have to take it and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Cooper-Woolley admits his life could have taken a very different path when he gave up the game completely as a 16-year-old, dropping out of the Harlequins Elite Player Development Group and taking a few years out, before his rugby interest was rekindled as a student at Cardiff University.
“I just made one of those decisions that you think as a teenager is the right thing to do but is silly really. I felt like I was missing out on loads of fun and I just gave it up and decided to go to University in Wales. It was nothing to do with rugby, I just chose a course down there that I liked and I didn’t even contact their rugby team to say I wanted to play. I just went to the trials with the other freshers in the first week and because I was pretty big and they didn’t have many props, I got my foot in the door and it all went from there.”
Under the eye of Martin Fowler, his head coach, Cooper-Woolley played locally with Bedwas and in his final year became connected with Cardiff Blues. But injury struck on his first Blues appearance and surgery to repair his ACL saw him miss all of last season.
His progress hadn’t gone unnoticed by Dai Young however and when he offered the young Cooper-Woolley a contract at Wasps, there was no hesitation.
“It has taken me a long time to get here and I am just really grateful to be here in this environment and to be playing professionally. Dai was in touch with me when I was a student and so I was delighted he gave me a contract here.”
Cooper-Woolley has been part of a Wasps revival of sorts up front this season, with the set-piece going great guns and with pack driving play having been a key feature of games such as the win over Bayonne last weekend.
“The whole pack works together really well here. We understand we need to have the same mentality as a pack and we discuss things a lot. From the very first weeks of preseason training, Dai talked to us about changing our mentality as a pack and changing how people perceived us. There has been a big buy in from all of the forwards to that ethos and the attitude is great.”
Cooper-Woolley is also feeling more and more comfortable packing down against far more experienced opposition.
“The scrum law changes this season probably suit me quite well in how I play. We do so much work with Dai every week up front and in the scrum in particular. I have got a long way to go but each week I find myself feeling more and more comfortable. This weekend against Leicester is going to be a massive step up for all of us. Leicester have always had a fantastic scrum and they really put it to teams up front. We need to get our detail right this week and take the attitude we have had into the game Sunday."
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