Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham says Quade Cooper is wasting his time playing club rugby in Brisbane if he wants to represent Australia again.
Larkham, arguably the Wallabies’ greatest ever No.10, has urged Cooper to seriously consider moving Super Rugby clubs after the Queensland Reds effectively closed the door on one of their favourite sons.
Club land: Quade Cooper is playing in Brisbane club rugby, despite being paid $800,000 a year by the Queensland Reds and Rugby Australia.
In a statement, Reds coach Brad Thorn, who told Cooper at the start of the season he was not required to train with the main squad, said the 70-Test Wallaby was free to leave the club.
“If there was an opportunity for Quade at another Super Rugby club, we wouldn’t stand in his way,” Thorn said.
The problem is that Cooper has a six-figure a season deal with the Reds until 2019, meaning he is free to play club rugby on Queensland’s coin.
Cooper has repeatedly said he has aspirations of once again donning a gold jersey but many think if he was serious about doing so, he would have been proactive and switched clubs already.
The Brumbies and Rebels have spoken to Cooper’s management but it is understood he is not keen to move south.
Speaking on Wednesday, Larkham said the ball was in Cooper's court if he wanted to extend his international career.
“At the moment playing club rugby, I know he’s probably enjoying it and no doubt getting a lot out of it, but it’s doing nothing for his aspirations to get to the next level,” Larkham said. “Now that Brad [Thorn] has categorically told everyone that he is not on the radar there, I think realistically Quade should start looking at some alternatives.
“It’s up to him but I’d love to see him playing Super Rugby, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve always enjoyed my time with Quade and he’s a magnificent player. I certainly want to see him playing at that next level, which will hopefully then get him the opportunity to play for Australia again.
“He was holding out hope at the Reds. I know he enjoys living in Brisbane and certainly has a strong affinity with his club up there.”
A month out from the Wallabies’ first Test with Ireland in Brisbane, Larkham and his fellow coaches have a strong idea who will be in their squad for the three-match series.
Realistically, Cooper is not in the picture, no matter how well he might be playing for Souths in Brisbane Premier Rugby.
“We’re looking at Super Rugby players,” Larkham said. “We’re going through a pretty extensive process at the moment reviewing all the Super Rugby players in Australia … so we’re hoping to not miss anyone out of Super Rugby.
“Anomalies come up but that’s not happening at the moment.”
Larkham admitted he had not spoken to Cooper since the Wallabies played a Barbarians side last year in October. Head coach Michael Cheika has been in contact with the playmaker at various points this year.
The problem, however, is that Australian rugby is not blessed with a plethora of quality five-eighths.
If the likes of Jono Lance and Jack Debreczeni had been playing out of their skin this season, there wouldn’t be as much of a dilemma.
“That’s the issue we’ve got at the moment; we haven’t got a lot of depth there,” Larkham said. “Bernard [Foley], Reece Hodge and Kurtley Beale were our three five-eighths [in the squad last year]. It makes it difficult to not have a fly-half on the bench.
“If you look at contribution to the team on the field, there is no doubt he [Cooper] is good enough to play for Australia and make an impact at that level.”
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