Wallabies outcast Quade Cooper will get one final chance to impress Australia coach Robbie Deans and win a spot in the Test squad to face the British and Irish Lions when he plays for the Queensland Reds against the tourists in Brisbane tomorrow.
The enigmatic Cooper was not included in Deans’s initial 25-man squad for the series, but is seeking one of six additional spots for the Tests which the coach will name next Tuesday.
Shorn of seven other Wallabies for the match at Lang Park, Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie has still been able to name a side laden with Super Rugby and international experience.
Hooker James Hanson, prop Greg Holmes, loose forwards Eddie Quirk and Jake Schatz and stand-off Cooper have played in all 15 of the Reds’ Super Rugby matches this season.
Inside centre Anthony Faingaa also has more than 20 caps for the Wallabies.
The tourists thrashed an inexperienced Western Force side 69-17 on Wednesday, running in nine tries in Perth, and angry former England coach Clive Woodward said the Force had treated the Lions with “contempt” by fielding a team that included seven players without any Super Rugby experience.
But McKenzie said: “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. We’ll go out there on Saturday with a commitment to giving a strong account of ourselves.”
McKenzie has yet to name a captain to replace absent lock James Horwill, who is training in the Wallabies camp, along with scrum-half Will Genia and flanker Liam Gill, among others.
“We know what we’re doing – we’ll announce it tomorrow,” McKenzie added. “We thought we’d wait for the British media to arrive, to spread the news.”
McKenzie was cagey when asked if 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, who has been touted as a future Wallabies coach himself, added.
McKenzie has left three capped Wallabies on the bench in veteran back-rower Radike Samo, sharp-kicking back Mike Harris and pacy winger Dom Shipperley.
Queensland Reds: Ben Lucas, Rod Davies, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Faingaa, 1Luke Morahan, Quade Cooper, Nick Frisby, Jake Schatz, Beau Robinson, Eddie Quirk, Ed O’Donoghue, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, Ben Daley. Subs: Albert Anae Sam Denny, Jono Owen, Radike Samo, Jarrad Butler, Jono Lance, Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley.