Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will do everything possible to ensure Toulon-bound playmaker Quade Cooper is not lost to Australian rugby.
Cooper, who will be unveiled to the French media as Toulon’s latest signing on Monday, faces an uncertain future in the gold jersey.
With 58 Tests to his name the former Reds playmaker falls two games shy of the cut-off which would make him eligible under the revised rules introduced this season – which allowed veterans Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, who will be Cooper’s teammates at Toulon, to make their Wallabies comebacks this year.
That would seemingly put a halt on Cooper’s Wallabies career for two years, the length of his deal with the wealthy French club.
Cheika said he wasn’t tempted to pick Cooper to help him reach the 60-Test threshold – and in fact left him as an unused substitute in Australia’s quarter-final win over Scotland.
But he insisted the 27-year-old still had plenty to offer Australian rugby.
“No you can’t be playing with that type of stuff, that’s not what it’s designed for,” Cheika said when asked if Cooper’s Test target was a factor at the selection table.
“But we’ll be doing everything we can to keep Quade playing in Australia.
“I want him to be playing here, he’s a great player, he’s been outstanding on this trip.
“His attitude and his contribution to the team, off the field, has been outstanding and on the field when he’s played and on the training paddock.
“Even with his own disappointment over not getting selected he’s been outstanding and I want players like that involved with the team at all costs.”
Despite conceding the No.10 jersey to Bernard Foley at the World Cup, Cooper remains a valuable asset for Cheika – who has precious little depth at the key playmaking position.
But with Foley having signed a flexible playing contract similar to fullback Israel Folau, which allows him to supplement his wage with mid-year stints in Japanese rugby, there are concerns about his workload.
The would bring Cooper back into the fold, had he still been playing in Australia.
Cheika said he had had discussions with Cooper about what the oft-maligned star wanted from his future but said the contents of their chats would remain private.