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Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has delivered Quade Cooper an ultimatum: leave the Queensland Reds or forget playing for Australia again on his watch.
Reds coach Brad Thorn has already slammed the door shut on Cooper.
Now Cheika has also made it clear there’s no way back into the Wallabies fold unless he joins a rival Australian Super Rugby franchise.
Both the Melbourne Rebels and Brumbies have pursued the exiled star but the 30-year-old is refusing to budge, saying he’s determined to work his way back into the Queensland squad.
Cheika says while he remains a fan of Cooper, he won’t consider plucking the enigmatic playmaker out of Brisbane club rugby to wear the Wallabies gold jumper.
“If he hadn’t had the opportunity to go play Super Rugby, I would say yes because it’s not his fault if he hasn’t had the opportunity, (to play elsewhere),” Cheika said on Fox Sports’ Kick and Chase program.
“But he’s been offered opportunities and I think he should take one – and I would like him to take one of them so he can get up there and be in the position.”
Cooper, though, is happy to continue pocketing some $800,000 a year plying his trade for Brisbane Souths.
And that frustrates Cheika.
“I want to be clear,” said the national coach.
“I’ve been watching his club footy games. It’s been really good actually. The standard of the comp in Brisbane – because I’ve been watching more games for that reason – it’s been outstanding.
“But (he needs to) even just go and get a couple of games at the (Super Rugby) pace. It goes up a level so then, when it comes to the Test, you’ll be ready to go.
“He has to have form on the board, like all players.”
Thorn, in his first year as a Super Rugby coach, banished Cooper from the Queensland squad before a ball was even kicked this season and has repeatedly said the Reds were “going in a different direction”.
Cheika is adamant he won’t intervene, not only on the Cooper conundrum but with any selection issues involving Australia’s four Super Rugby sides.
“If we want to start to build a proper type of collaboration, where the national team’s involved with the states, you’ve got to trust and respect what the coaches are doing as well,” Cheika said.
“So if he’s (Thorn) saying there’s no way he’s coming back in, I trust him.”