Quade Cooper admits he faces a big challenge to establish himself in Australia’s rugby sevens team for the Rio Olympics.
France-based Cooper returned to Sydney on Wednesday and immediately began training with the Australian squad for his expected debut in this weekend’s Sevens World Series round at Allianz Stadium.
On Saturday, the 58-time capped Wallaby could line up against good mate, code hopper and New Zealand dual international Sonny Bill Williams in a pool clash.
Cooper said he will bring work ethic, eagerness and enthusiasm as he bids to complete a crash course in sevens, a form he has played just once as a senior, with Queensland in 2009.
The former Wallaby playmaker has only secured a release from his club Toulon to play in three rounds of the World Series and said he was most nervous about adjusting to the different pace of the sevens.
“In terms of general skill set I think that I wouldn’t be too far off in saying it’s a game I haven’t played much of,” cooper said.
“I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be difficult but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to and hopefully sooner rather than later I will be able to adapt.”
Cooper revealed he had already spoken to Williams, who made an up and down sevens debut for New Zealand in the World Series event in Wellington last weekend.
Williams showed patches of brilliance but also made two big errors in the final before being replaced which almost cost his team the title.
“He (Williams) said it was tough and he said he is still a rookie,” Cooper said.
“I watched a few of his games and saw how well he went in patches – it’s like anything, you learn as quick as you can and you adapt as fast as possible.
“There is still so much learning to do and I think for both myself and him it’s very similar to boxing.
“When we started boxing we knew very little and still do but we put ourselves in that position to learn and that is where the challenge comes – in just being able to learn on the run.”
Cooper described the Olympics as a “big carrot”.
“Every bloke that’s part of the sevens internationally is looking at the Rio Olympics and being able to stand on that podium and for myself, I’m no different,” Cooper said.
New Australian Sevens coach Andy Friend said Cooper would need to play a minimum of two tournaments before the Olympics.
He stressed Cooper wasn’t guaranteed a saloon passage into the side and the Olympic squad, despite the great efforts the Australian Rugby Union has gone to in order to secure his limited release from Toulon.
“Just because it’s Quade Cooper doesn’t mean he gets a walk in start,” Friend said.