World Rugby Sevens Series
Greg Growden praises Andy Friend for 'gutsy' Quade Cooper call
Greg Growden
February 4, 2016
Quade overlooked for Sydney Sevens

It would have been such an easy call for the new Australia Sevens coach Andy Friend to fast-track Quade Cooper and play him in the Sydney Sevens tournament this weekend.

It would have made the Australian Rugby Union marketing department happy, as Cooper's involvement would have had punters fighting each other outside the turnstiles for any spare tickets in a 'House Full' arena- especially if he was about to confront Sonny Bill Williams.

It would have appeased Cooper who had travelled halfway across the world for the event. And it would have kept happy Cooper's employer at Toulon, owner Mourad Boudjellal, who allowed him to suddenly appear on a Sydney training paddock.

The far tougher choice for Friend was to overlook Cooper, because of the threat of upsetting too many people. That Friend did ignore Cooper is a gutsy call, but still the right one.

It shows that Friend is loyal to a squad who have done the hard yards in a succession of tournaments, and also has Cooper's welfare at heart, because you seriously cannot expect to play someone after a day-long flight from Europe and just one short training session. And this is someone with only scanty knowledge of Sevens rugby.

Picking him would have sent the wrong message to the rest of the squad, indicating that big names and reputations are all that matter. Dropped lips would have been inevitable.

The delay in Cooper's appearance in the Australia Sevens team will also give him proper time to get to know his new teammates, and see first-hand what is required at a major tournament.

As numerous coaches will testify, Cooper can be a major off-field asset on game day. The Queensland Reds discovered during Cooper's long stints on the sideline through injury that he remains the most loyal of team men, becoming a form of assistant coach on the sideline, offering advice and guidance, especially to the inner backs.

Friend would be wise to use Cooper in a similar vein, especially as the Australia Sevens squad has numerous young players who will take notice of every syllable he utters.

It also won't take long for Cooper to understand this Sevens caper.

As Friend said, Cooper will get his opportunities during the HSBC Sevens World Series.

Far better this happens when he is primed, actually knows every Sevens squad member's name and is fully focused, rather than when jetlagged and lolly-legged.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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