Three Super Rugby games should still be enough for Quade Cooper to prove his Wallabies World Cup worth, according to Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham.
The Reds have taken a cautious approach with Cooper, who has fully recovered from his fractured scapula but was not considered for this Friday’s clash with the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.
Graham said picking Cooper would be too great a risk, given his lack of contact work at training and loss of strength and bulk following a second serious shoulder injury this year.
“We’re probably only a couple of days short, but given he’s been out for so long and he’s had a couple of injuries in that area it’s best to be conservative,” he said.
Graham confirmed Cooper would be ready for next weekend’s trip to face the Western Force, before the Reds close out the season against the Chiefs (home) and Waratahs (away).
That will give him three more opportunities to show Wallabies coach Michael Cheika that he still has a part to play at the World Cup and beyond, despite the last 24 injury-ravaged months.
“I’d suggest that’s enough time if Cheika’s comfortable,” Graham said.
“Cheika’s got some history, taking him on the end-of-season tour last year.
“From memory, I think he was involved in all five games.
“Michael will have a lot of confidence in what he did for him last year as well.”
Cooper is yet to make his mind up about where he will play his rugby next season, with a big-money offer from European club powerhouse Toulon sitting on the table.
The more Wallabies appearances he makes this year, the simpler his choice may become.
The 27-year-old needs seven more caps to qualify for the Australian Rugby Union’s new Wallabies eligibility cutoff of 60 caps for overseas-based players.
Cooper’s halves partner Will Genia, who has committed to a move to France next year, can’t wait for his halves partner to return.
“It’d be great to have him back, he’s obviously world class and makes a massive different for whatever team he plays for,” Genia said.
In the meantime, rookie flyhalf Jake McIntyre retains the No.10 jersey after his terrific debut in Queensland’s big win over the Melbourne Rebels last Friday.
Genia said he was impressed with how the northern NSW product handled the occasion.
“He was obviously chucked in the deep end where he’s put in a position where he has to call a lot of the plays and dictate how he wanted to play the game,” Genia said.
“You have to commend the other 14 guys around him who made a massive effort to make sure it was a smooth ride, an easy transition for him.
“The responsibility that he had on his shoulders, I thought he did a really good job.”
The Reds have made just one change to their squad for the Sharks clash, with Chris Kuridrani replacing Lachie Turner (concussion).
Queensland Reds: James O’Connor, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Chris Kuridrani, Jake McIntyre, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Adam Thomson, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, James Slipper (c). Res: Andrew Ready, Pettowa Paraka, Sam Talakai, Ed O’Donoghue, Lolo Fakaosilea, Nick Frisby, Sam Greene, Ben Tapuai.