Australia’s rugby sevens coach says he’s safeguarded Quade Cooper’s body and his own team’s Sydney 7s hopes by controversially overlooking the Wallabies showman.
Andy Friend has resolutely defended his surprise decision to delay Cooper’s world series debut, saying it would have been too big an injury risk to the 58-Test five-eighth this weekend.
Friend said Cooper, hoping to make the Rio Olympics on the back of just three tournaments, had been informed once he stepped off the plane from France on Wednesday morning he wouldn’t play.
Former Wallabies skipper Mark Ella has led the chorus of criticism by saying Cooper should get back on the plane and return to Toulon immediately.
Friend explained he also needed to respect the team dynamic and not sacrifice their chances of winning the inaugural Sydney tournament by exposing an underdone player.
“It’s a tough decision and he’s obviously travelled a long way out here but the bottom line is that it’s a risk if we do play him,” he said.
“The 15s game and the 7s game are two very different games.
“People don’t understand that and it is hard for them to comprehend.
“The main consideration was Quade himself. We have to pick the right time for him to come in.
“What you see traditionally is players from 15s trying to compete in a club tournament (and) you often see hamstrings, quads and different things go, let alone a world series.”
Cooper was upset by the call but respected the decision.
Game-breaking star Cameron Clark has said Cooper’s five days of learning with the Thunderbolts meant it wasn’t a wasted exercise while Friend also revealed the Kiwi-born playmaker had to return home to sign documents to gain Australian citizenship, which is required for Olympic selection.
The newly appointed coach admitted he considered easing Cooper in against Saturday’s pool rivals Portugal and Canada but it would have come at a cost.
“We could have picked 11 players and Quade and used Quade very sparingly, but that puts a lot of pressure on the other 11 players,” he said.
“Our intention in this tournament is to try and win it.
“We’ve got a lot of young blokes here who have worked their backsides off.
“The last thing I want to do is to come in and say I’m not respecting that by throwing a player in with three days’ preparation.”