Sport Lions Tour

Sunday 19 November 2017

No place for Quade Cooper in final Wallabies squad to face Lions

Quade Cooper
Quade Cooper

Ian Ransom in Melbourne

Australia coach Robbie Deans has stuck to his guns and will not select mercurial flyhalf Quade Cooper in his final Wallabies squad for the test series against the British and Irish Lions.

Deans controversially overlooked Cooper for the Wallabies' initial 25-man squad named last month and this morning confirmed he would not include the playmaker in a final six players to be added and named early this week.

"We've obviously not included him (Cooper) in the additional six at this stage, but as you've seen (with injuries), things happen quickly," New Zealander Deans told reporters in Queensland state's Sunshine Coast, where the Wallabies have assembled for a training camp.

"This is a three-test campaign and nothing surprises you in this industry.

"Quade is a huge talent, we understand what he is capable of ... We've now settled on the squad and we'll get on with our opportunity."  Cooper captained the Queensland Reds in their 22-12 loss in a tour match against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday at Brisbane's Lang Park, and mixed patches of brilliance with a couple of glaring errors in his final chance to impress Deans.

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie, widely tipped to succeed Deans and no great friend of the New Zealander, praised Cooper for marshalling the Reds' attack against the Lions and said he would pick the pivot "any week" were he the Wallabies coach.

Deans said Cooper's game had "probably just reaffirmed where we're at."  Cooper's omission is certain to fuel further controversy Down Under where a raft of former players and pundits have said the New Zealand-born player's incisive passing and quick feet would add an essential ingredient to the Wallabies mix against the Lions.

Local media have speculated that the flyhalf remains in the freezer for publicly criticising Deans's game-plan last year. He also labelled the Wallabies camp as a "toxic environment" he felt was "destroying" him in an extraordinary attack on Australian rugby.

Cooper's omission will put the heat on 22-year-old utility back James O'Connor, who Deans has already anointed as his preferred flyhalf despite the player starting in the number 10 shirt just once.

Troubled back Kurtley Beale, who checked himself into a private health clinic last month to deal with "personal problems", could also be called upon to play in the pivotal position, having joined the Wallabies in training.

The Melbourne Rebels utility was among a number of players reporting to the Queensland training camp who had not been named in the squad yet.

The others were a trio of players from Super Rugby side ACT Brumbies in 19-test Wallaby centre Pat McCabe, versatile forward Peter Kimlin, and uncapped prop Scott Sio, and a fourth in former Australia scrumhalf Luke Burgess.

The Wallabies take on the British and Irish Lions in the first test in Brisbane on June 22, with the second test in Melbourne and the final match in Sydney. 

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