Outcast Cooper faces final audition for Wallabies berth
WALLABIES outcast Quade Cooper will get one final chance to impress Australia coach Robbie Deans and win a spot in his test squad to face the British and Irish Lions when he lines up for the Queensland Reds against the tourists on Saturday.
The enigmatic Cooper was not included in Deans's initial 25-man squad for the series, but is seeking one of six additional spots the coach will name next Tuesday for the test series.
Shorn of seven other Wallabies for the match at Lang Park, Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie was still able to name a side laden with Super Rugby and international experience for the Lions' second game in Australia.
The Lions thrashed an inexperienced Western Force side 69-17 in their opening game Down Under on Wednesday, running in nine tries at Perth's Subiaco Oval.
Hooker James Hanson, prop Greg Holmes, loose forwards Eddie Quirk and Jake Schatz and flyhalf Cooper played in all 15 of the Reds' Super Rugby matches this season.
Inside centre Anthony Faingaa has also played more than 20 tests for the Wallabies, including the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
The quality of the side may go some way to mollifying former England coach Clive Woodward, who slammed the Perth-based Western Force in a column in the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, as treating the Lions with "contempt" for fielding a team that included seven players without Super Rugby experience.
"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 go out and compete against a very talented Lions squad," McKenzie said.
"History suggests that it's a mammoth challenge, but we'll go out there on Saturday with plenty of good intentions and with a commitment to giving a strong account of ourselves across the entire 80 minutes."
Intriguingly, McKenzie declined to name a captain for the side to replace absent lock James Horwill, who is training with the Wallabies camp along with scrumhalf Will Genia, flanker Liam Gill and a raft of other hopefuls for the Lions series.
McKenzie, who oversaw the Reds' 2011 Super Rugby championship and will leave the team at the end of the season, said a captain would be named on Friday for the benefit of the touring British media.
"We know what we're doing - we'll announce it tomorrow," McKenzie told reporters in Brisbane. "We thought we'd wait for the British media to arrive, to spread the news."
McKenzie was cagey when asked whether Cooper would lead the side.
"Quade is a leader in our side every week, he calls the shots and he contributes in many ways, so he already leads anyway," McKenzie, touted as a future Wallabies coach, added.
McKenzie has left three capped Wallabies on the bench in veteran backrower Radike Samo, sharp-kicking back Mike Harris and jetheeled winger Dom Shipperley.
Queensland Reds: 15-Ben Lucas, 14-Rod Davies, 13-Ben Tapuai, 12-Anthony Faingaa, 11-Luke Morahan, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Nick Frisby, 8-Jake Schatz, 7-Beau Robinson, 6-Eddie Quirk, 5-Ed O'Donoghue, 4-Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3-Greg Holmes, 2-James Hanson, 1-Ben Daley
Replacements: 16-Albert Anae 17-Sam Denny, 18-Jono Owen, 19-Radike Samo, 20-Jarrad Butler, 21-Jono Lance, 22-Mike Harris, 23-Dom Shipperley (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)