The incoming Australian coach has five Tests and eight months to figure out his preferred World Cup squad after Dave Rennie was sensationally axed on Monday.
Rennie himself was still tinkering, particularly in the spine, with a 44-man squad in camp last week not including veteran five-eighths James O’Connor or Bernard Foley.
Japan-based Cooper was there on the Gold Coast alongside young Super Rugby Pacific pair Ben Donaldson (Waratahs) and Noah Lolesio (Brumbies).
Rennie enjoyed his brightest moments in charge with Cooper in the driver’s seat, his surprise recall sparking a five-game winning streak that took them to No.3 in the world.
But Cooper’s Achilles tear has him on ice and, when asked for his thoughts on the position, Jones didn’t mention him until prompted.
“You’ve got to be available and as it stands when Super Rugby starts (in February), he won’t be,” Jones said of Cooper, whose return date remains a mystery.
“The big thing is to get fit and start playing. When he does that, then he comes into recognition.
“When Quade came back (under Rennie), he didn’t look out of place and looked a more mature (player); still gifted in terms of his ball play and decision making.
“He added a lot of physicality to his game which as a younger player, as they do, he struggled with a bit.”
Jones did mention Donaldson, clubmate Tane Edmed, Foley and Lolesio, while he said O’Connor’s utility value also meant he’d be considered despite falling out of favour with Rennie.
“He is a guy who can play in a number of positions, he has matured nicely, and he is another one who could come into the reckoning,” Jones said of the Reds’ playmaker.
“We are not short of people there. We just have to find the right fit.”
So what does he want from his playmaker, and how does that shape the team’s style?
“Australian rugby has always been at its best when we have been really tough, we fight, we have that real hard edge about us,” the coach said.
“And then we need to be a smart team, because in some areas we won’t be as athletically gifted as others so we need to be smart about the game.
“So I am looking for a No.10 who can play tough in that position, particularly in terms of decision making and be really smart.”
He said form at Test level would be the supreme currency, while Jones will have an open mind while watching this season’s Super Rugby Pacific competition.
“It will be who comes through at Super Rugby that is going to have the first opportunity for Australia,” he said in another worrying sign for Cooper.
“But having said that, and it seems like a contradiction, we are also going to have to decide quite quickly who we think are the best nines and tens and 12s, particularly, to try and build up that cohesion.”