Cooper proud to be a part of Toulon's growing 'prestige'
Published 11/12/2015 | 02:30
He divides opinion wherever he goes but Quade Cooper has been chosen by Mourad Boudjellal as the man to pull the strings for Toulon for at least the next two years.
It took some time before the deal was eventually completed but following renegotiations, Cooper finally landed himself a contract that will allow him to play for Australia at next year's inaugural Olympic Sevens tournament.
As soon as he arrived in the south of France, he apologised for what he described as a "drawn-out process" but now that club owner Boudjellal has added him to his army of galacticos, he will expect immediate results on the field.
"It was hard because I wanted to be with my family, I discussed it several times a day with them to see if everything was okay. I didn't look for an excuse for my performance but it was in a corner my head," Cooper explained.
After the recent passing of his grandmother, the 27-year headed home to be with his family and he admitted that it was something he needed to do, having not been in Australia in months.
"After what happened to my grandmother, my second week here was complicated because I wanted to go and see if all was well with my family. It was especially important for me to go I hadn't seen my family since May."
The mercurial out-half may not have sparkled at the World Cup but he is determined to reinvent himself at Toulon. Following the signing of Ma'a Nonu, however, he is likely to face stiff competition from one of his compatriots for the No 10 jersey.
Matt Giteau has become something of a local hero in Toulon and his performances for the Wallabies at the World Cup reiterated his class but Cooper has welcomed the healthy competition for places.
"Fred Michalak and Matt Giteau are also here. Positions are doubled or tripled and that's what makes the success of the club. Being in competition with the best is one reason for coming here," he said.
"I'm lucky to be in such a prestigious club with world-class players. I want to continue learning here. The club still wants to be the best."
Since arriving in Toulon, Cooper has been putting in extra hours on his kicking practice - an aspect of his game that has often let him down in the past.
With the help and advice of Jonny Wilkinson, Cooper insists that he is improving all the time, even if he isn't accustomed to having a kicking coach.
"I've never had a specific coach for my kicking game, except when I was 17," he said. "I was working with Elton Flatley. But as soon as he stopped, it was over.
"I have the chance to learn with one of the best here. Whenever I know that Jonny is here, I take out my phone and try to stall the sessions with him. This helps me tremendously and I want to continue learning "
Cooper's battle with Johnny Sexton will be one of the many fascinating sub-plots to Sunday's clash. If the Australian comes out on top, Toulon will take one giant step towards knocking Leinster out of Europe.