Reds v British & Irish Lions, Brisbane
Captain Quade Cooper focused solely on Reds
Tom Hamilton in Brisbane
June 7, 2013
Quade Cooper will skipper the Reds against the Lions on Saturday © Getty Images

Reds fly-half Quade Cooper is not letting himself get distracted by Tuesday's Wallabies squad announcement and has his sights set on the British & Irish Lions match on Saturday.

Australia coach Robbie Deans has already named the bulk of his squad for the Test series against the Lions but there are still six spots up for grabs in what will be a 31-man squad. Cooper last ran out for the national side in September 2012 and has had a public war of words with the Australian Rugby Union hierarchy in the past when he labelled the environment in the Wallabies' camp "toxic".

But he has excelled for the Reds this season, starting all of their 15 games, and coach Ewen McKenzie has opted to hand his mercurial fly-half the captain's armband for Saturday's game against the Lions. Cooper last skippered a side at schoolboy level, but it was an easy decision for McKenzie.

"We picked our team and looked at the leadership side of things and in the end, the way our game functions and the way we play, Quade's integral in that," McKenzie said. "He dictates a lot of what happens on the field, in and around the game and what we do each week. He's always taken ownership of the game plan, we have a specific task at hand and I can't think of a better guy to run it for us."

And when speaking to the press on Thursday at the Suncorp Stadium, Cooper was keen to put aside any talk of a potential Wallabies call-up and was adamant he was focused on facing the Lions. He said: "You can only deal with the things you have in front of you.

"You don't want to get too ahead of yourself and concentrate on things which may or may not happen. For me, I've got a great opportunity and I'll enjoy this and I'll call this the business end and focus on this."

The Reds last faced the Lions in 2001 and fell to a heavy 42-6 defeat. The team McKenzie has named for Saturday's game features nine Wallabies in the starting line-up and they should provide a much sterner test for Warren Gatland's charges.

"I'm just excited about the opportunity to play against them," Cooper said. "I have that opportunity tomorrow night and to represent my state and country. It's the first outing against the Lions in a long time and I'm excited about it and I'm sure the Queensland public are as well."

And former fly-half Elton Flatley, who played against the Lions both for the Wallabies and Reds in 2001, has tipped the home side to emerge from the match victorious. "It's going to be a tough contest to win and I'd put a dollar on the Reds," Flatley told ESPN. "Obviously I'm a one-eyed supporter, but these opportunities don't come around that often, and they'll give it their all."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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