Reds prepare for life without Cooper
No Quade Cooper, no problem. That was the Queensland Reds’ attitude as they backed fill-in No.10 Ben Lucas to keep their Super Rugby title defence on track despite not making a final decision on whether to appeal playmaker Cooper’s one-game ban.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said they would wait until they received the written judgement on Cooper’s suspension – expected to be later on Tuesday – before making a final call ahead of Saturday night’s qualifying final with the Sharks.
In a major blow to the defending champions, Cooper was found guilty of a dangerous tackle on NSW centre Berrick Barnes in Queensland’s 32-16 final round win over the Waratahs after a marathon judicial hearing on Monday night.
“We will look at the reasons then go forward,” McKenzie said on Tuesday.
“We think there might be grounds (to appeal) but it doesn’t mean we will go forward with it.
“We will make an informed decision when we get all the information but we have to get on with our preparation for the Sharks.”
A gutted Cooper said on Monday night he was wary of appealing due to the risk of adding more weeks to his ban if unsuccessful.
However, McKenzie said he would not be losing any sleep over utility back Lucas slotting in for the Wallabies five-eighth in the sudden death finals clash at Suncorp Stadium.
“I am not worried (about using Lucas). We have always said we are confident for cover if Quade is out,” he said.
“Hopefully he rises to the occasion. He has done it before for us.”
The last time Lucas filled in for Cooper at No.10 he helped inspire a stirring 42-27 win over New Zealand conference winners the Chiefs.
Reds captain Will Genia looked forward to combining with Lucas who seemed set to get the nod over their other No.10 option, goal-kicking inside centre Mike Harris.
“Ben has been exceptional the times he has been at 10 for us – he will step in and do the job,” Genia said on Tuesday.
“It is obviously very disappointing not having Quade play but in terms of the process you have to trust it and back the decision that was made.
“From our point of view we have to move on.”
Queensland will be out to exact revenge when they vie for a seventh straight win in front of a predicted 50,000-strong pro-Reds crowd.
They led the Sharks 17-0 in their early season clash in Durban but somehow lost 27-22 – along with Lucas and Harris to injury as well as Digby Ioane to suspension.
It sparked a three-game losing slump, threatening to derail the Reds’ title defence – not that Genia had to be reminded.
“I can’t wait. From 17-0 up then to lose the game … I am really looking forward to another opportunity to play them,” he said.
If the Reds beat the Sharks then Cooper will be free to return for the semi-final against the Chiefs in Hamilton next week.© AAP 2013