Quade Cooper copped a smack on the chops six days earlier than he expected in his rugby return at Toowoomba Sports Ground.
But the controversial Queensland Reds playmaker declared himself ready to start the Super Rugby season in peak fitness after surviving his only pre-season trial against a Blues outfit littered with bruising “super-heavyweights” on Saturday night.
Cooper looked sharp as he got through 60 minutes in the Reds’ 41-35 victory over the young and physical Aucklanders who showed they would be a handful in 2013 under Sir John Kirwan.
With his boxing debut against Barry Dunnett scheduled for Friday night – the same time as the Reds’ final trial against the Chiefs – the 38-Test five-eighth could well be underdone for the opening round clash with the Brumbies on February 16.
But he stressed he’d be in top shape for the Canberra visit where he’s certain to be targeted by former schoolmate and Wallabies flanker David Pocock.
“We’re building well towards that and I feel really fit and healthy,” Cooper said. “I got through that game without too many knocks.
“I got a bit of a bruise on the lip but I’m sure I’ll be getting one next Friday as well.”
Queensland were forced to come from 14-0 down early as the big Blues – described by Cooper as super-heavyweights – won the gain line battle early before the Reds played more direct and maintained possession to put on a five-try burst.
But Kirwan’s side, missing all their All Blacks, stormed back late through destructive winger Lolagi Visinia who set up one try, running over Cooper in the process, and scored another.
Cooper praised the 40-minute performances of Ben Lucas and Nick Frisby, a second-half stand-out, who are vying for the No.9 jersey left vacant by Will Genia.
Trial skipper Anthony Faingaa will undergo X-rays on a suspected broken hand on Monday but coach Ewen McKenzie played down concerns of a midfield reshuffle.
“Those sort of things you can have problems but you just strap them up and get out there,” McKenzie said. “He’s a pretty tough rooster so we’re not worried about it.”
The Reds are hopeful captain James Horwill will make his long-awaited return from hamstring surgery on Friday night against the Super Rugby champions at the Sunshine Coast.
They already have Wallabies Dom Shipperley, Saia Faingaa and Rob Simmons preparing to make their first 2013 appearances while No.8 front-runner Jake Schatz is also expected to return from shoulder surgery.