Michael Cheika has confirmed the Australian Rugby Union is actively trying to lure Quade Cooper back home.
Hot on the heels of Queensland’s stunning signing of legendary Wallabies flanker George Smith, the Reds could have another big-name addition to their 2017 squad if Cheika’s latest attempt at repatriating overseas-based players pays off.
Mercurial five-eighth Cooper left the Reds at the end of last year to sign a two-year deal with French glamour club Toulon, but the move hasn’t worked out and the 28-year-old is understood to be keen to come home.
“I’ve been more than endorsing it – I’ve been out there trying to get him back,” Cheika told a Reds luncheon in Brisbane on Friday.
“For many years players left Australia and we just said, `alright, you’re gone now, see you later’.
“I played myself overseas in the non-professional era, and I know how good an experience it is.
“They haven’t betrayed the country by going over there and having that experience.
“Let’s see if we can tell them how much we want them back.”
The Reds desperately need an experienced playmaker, with current No.10 Jake McIntyre a good prospect but struggling to compete consistently at Super Rugby level.
Cooper would also provide additional back-up to Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley, who edged him out in a months-long battle for the position in the lead-up to last year’s World Cup.
“I know how much he loves playing in Australia,” said Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, who has also signed for the Reds next year.
“It’d be a great thing having him back playing here. If it can all be worked out it would be a great result.”
Reds executive general manager Daniel Herbert said there would be room for Cooper at Ballymore if he was able to secure a release from Toulon.
“If the desire’s there… we don’t like to comment until things are solidifying, but there’s obviously room,” Herbert said.
“The state certainly is involved but I’m an unashamed fan of Quade, have been for a long time.
“I think he gets unfairly tarnished at different times.
“If he wanted to come back, we’d welcome him.”