Cooper to push case for Wallabies call
AUSTRALIA out-half Quade Cooper is expected to be named captain of the Queensland Reds for tomorrow's match against the Lions, a game that looks to be his last opportunity to play his way into the Wallabies squad ahead of the three Test matches.
Cooper was omitted from the Australia squad last month, a controversial decision that looks to have been a hangover from his suspension last year for criticising the "toxic environment" in the Wallabies squad under head coach Robbie Deans.
Deans, however, has left the door ajar for Cooper with his decision to add six further names to his squad next Tuesday. And if Cooper, a mercurial figure who is blessed with innate attacking skills but has struggled with consistency, delivers a big performance in his head-to-head with England out-half Owen Farrell, Deans is likely to come under mounting pressure to include the wayward star.
The Lions have scored a total of 128 points and 17 tries in defeating the Barbarians and Western Force, but Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is confident his troops can upset the tourists in front of an expected sell-out crowd of 53,000. No Queensland side have defeated the Lions since 1971.
The Reds will be without seven current Wallabies squad members, including James Horwill and Will Genia, but McKenzie could still name a side containing nine capped internationals. Lock Adam Wallace-Harrison and full-back Ben Lucas have toured with the Wallabies, while three members of the eight-man bench also have Test experience.
"There isn't a player out there who wouldn't want to replicate the heroics of the 1971 side," McKenzie said. "Playing against the British and Irish Lions is a once-in-a-career type of opportunity, so to be running out in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium crowd will be an experience these 23 players will never forget.
"Our approach was always going to be to field as strong a line-up as possible, and I've got every confidence in the group we've chosen to compete against a very talented Lions squad." (© Daily Telegraph, London)