Quade Cooper denies Robbie Deans rift
April 11, 2013
Quade Cooper has shown improved form since the return of Will Genia © Getty Images
Quade Cooper has denied any continuing rift with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans after his surprise omission from a 30-man planning camp ahead of the British & Irish Lions series.
Cooper is seemingly out of Deans' prospective squad for the three-Test series in June and July, but he describes his omission from the camp seven weeks before the official 25-man Wallabies Test squad is named as "no big issue really because we have a big season ahead of us".
"The major issue is turning up in the Waikato and having a good game," Cooper said of his focus on Queensland Reds' Super Rugby round-nine match against the Chiefs. "The team is excited about that, and that's what's more important at this time. People are going to look at players differently. It's not the first or the last time you're going to miss out on a side."
With Kurtley Beale suspended for alcohol issues, fellow Melbourne Rebels star James O'Connor is now the clear favourite to wear the Wallabies No.10 jersey against the Lions. Brumbies vice-captain Christian Lealiifano will also attend the two-day logistics camp in Sydney, starting on Sunday, but neither he nor O'Connor play five-eighth regularly for their Super Rugby teams.
Cooper has returned to good form, after re-establishing his combination with Wallabies half-back Will Genia at the Reds, but he denies his non-selection for the logistics camp is a lingering fallout after his criticism last September of a "toxic" Wallabies environment.
"It's like just any other player-coach relationship," Cooper said after his omission from the camp featuring strategy meetings as well as promotional and administrative tasks. "I've got to do what I can as a player and he has to do what he thinks best as the coach. I've got full respect and trust in what he's doing for the team and I'll continue to do what I can for the team I'm part of now, which is the Reds."
Cooper denied he was motivated to play out of his skin for the next eight Super Rugby rounds to push his selection claims, stressing that his motivation would continue to be the best player possible. But he'll have a good gauge on his form on Saturday, when he goes head-to-head with All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden at Waikato Stadium.
Wallabies and Queensland leaders James Horwill and Genia both tipped that Cooper would fight his way into the Test squad on the back of his performances over the next two months.
The players to assemble in Sydney
Jesse Mogg (Brumbies), Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds), Joe Tomane (Brumbies), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Christian Leali'ifano (Brumbies), Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs), James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Nic White (Brumbies), Will Genia (Queensland Reds), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs), Fotu Auelua (Brumbies), Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), Scott Higginbotham (Melbourne Rebels), Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs), Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs), Dan Palmer (Brumbies), James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Scott Sio (Brumbies), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs).