Australia
Quade Cooper offers support for James O'Connor
AAP
October 18, 2015
James O'Connor
James O'Connor© Photo by Charle Lombard/Gallo Images/Getty Images

James O'Connor is not lost to Australian rugby, despite the early release from his Queensland Reds contract and his subsequent ugly feud with former Wallabies full-back Greg Martin, his good friend Quade Cooper says.

Martin branded O'Connor an "immature t__t" and "a little young punk", and described him as one of Australian rugby's greatest wasted talents, after the Reds released the utility from the final year of his contract to pave the way for him to return to French powerhouse Toulon. But Cooper, whose future at the Queensland Super Rugby franchise also remains up in the air, rejected any notion that O'Connor had used up his last chance to make the most of the ability that saw him debut for the Wallabies aged 18 years and earn 44 caps by the age of 25.

"He is a great player but he's not lost to Australian rugby," Cooper said. "He is a quality player, he is 25 years old. To look at any player and say their career is over at 25 is a silly thing to say. He is a fantastic player and I am sure he will continue to work hard and play some football, and look for another opportunity."

That next opportunity is likely to involve Toulon, for whom he has played previously alongside former Wallabies team-mates Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell on a short-term contract.

Cooper pointed out that other players - including himself and Wallabies Rugby World Cup team-mate Kurtley Beale - had overcome -field controversies to be welcomed back into the Australian fold.

"Opportunity is something as a footballer you look for," Cooper said. "I have got one [opportunity to play the quarterfinal against Scotland], Kurtley has got one and there are a fair few other guys who have been able to get opportunities, sometimes in ways you wouldn't want. But however you can [get an opportunity], you take it and work as hard as possible."

Cooper said he had been in touch with O'Connor this week, and he defended his friend in the simmering feud with Martin.

O'Connor hit back at Martin on Thursday night, posting a 1500-word defence on Facebook and claiming the nine-Test Wallaby turned commentator was bullying and had "no interest in the truth".

"I have spoken a few words to him. I don't think he meant any harm," Cooper said. "All he was getting at from my understanding was the commentating needs to lay off some of the boys. But we are all big boys and I am sure we can handle it."

© AAP

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