Quade Cooper will make his return from a two-month injury layoff for the Queensland Reds in their Super Rugby bottom-of-the-table clash with the Western Force on Saturday.
The mercurial Wallabies star, who has recovered from his second shoulder fracture this season, will start at flyhalf in place of rookie Jake McIntyre, who drops to the bench.
The increasingly likelihood is that it could be one of Cooper’s final appearances for Queensland, with the 27-year-old reportedly set to play in France next year on a big-money deal with glamour club Toulon.
“Quade (Cooper) was given the all clear 10 days ago but we wanted to keep working on his strength and bulk just to ensure we didn’t compromise his return,” coach Richard Graham said.
“He has been training with the squad now for about three weeks and will have no problems returning to play at this level.
“Jake will drop to the bench. He has done a good job over the past two weeks. He will take a lot of learnings from two very different games and he should take some confidence from how he has managed the team around the field.”
Cooper’s inclusion is one of two changes to the starting side that lost to the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium last Friday.
The other is Lachie Turner, who returns from injury to take his place on the wing for Chris Kuridrani (calf).
Flanker Beau Robinson, who tore his calf in pre-season has been named on an extended nine-man bench and stands to make his first appearance this year in Perth.
“It has been an extremely challenging year with injuries and Beau knows that better than most,” Graham said.
“After an excellent pre-season he suffered a calf strain in our final trial against the Crusaders and since has endured a number of foot injuries.
“He has now played a few (Brisbane) Premier Rugby games for Souths and is full of enthusiasm to be back in a Reds jersey.”
Reds: James O’Connor, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Lachie Turner, Quade Cooper, 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, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Jake McIntyre, Ben Tapuai (one to be omitted).