MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Quade Cooper is disillusioned with Australian rugby but remains 100 percent committed to the Queensland Reds, according to the Super Rugby team’s boss.
Cooper’s public attack on Robbie Deans’s coaching style and a “toxic” environment in the Wallabies’ camp in recent days has sparked rampant media speculation the injured flyhalf is set to ditch the code and cross to Australia’s National Rugby League.
Queensland chief Jim Carmichael poured cold water on the notion, however, saying he had met New Zealand-born Cooper for coffee in Brisbane on Tuesday to clear the air.
“I go on the record as saying Quade Cooper has no interest in leaving the Reds,” Carmichael said in comments published in News Ltd websites on Wednesday.
”He loves playing for Queensland and his country and he has reaffirmed his commitment on several occasions.
”Call me old-fashioned but I take him at his word.
”It is no secret that Quade is disillusioned at the moment. He’s a highly competitive rugby union player who wants to help his province and his country to be the best, and I can understand this.
“We are working closely with him to deal with his frustrations.”
Deans has been growing increasingly impatient with the flyhalf in recent months, overlooking Cooper for June tests against Scotland and Wales, and the opener of the Rugby Championship against New Zealand in Sydney.
The 24-year-old, who suffered a serious knee injury at last year’s World Cup, was recalled for the return match against New Zealand in Christchurch but failed to impose himself in that defeat and subsequent wins over South Africa and Argentina.
Deans said he had come close to substituting an underperforming Cooper in the Argentina match at the Gold Coast, a public dressing down that raised eyebrows among the Australian media pack.
A recurrence of his knee problem cut short his tournament, however, perhaps sparing the flyhalf the axe for the Wallabies’ last two games away at South Africa and Argentina.
But his comments, unaddressed by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), have undermined Deans’s authority and dogged the Wallabies camp as they prepare for Saturday’s match against the Springboks in Pretoria.
Cooper implied Deans was to blame for his struggles to convert his provincial form into success at international level, while alleging broader mismanagement of the game Down Under.
Cooper signed a three-year deal with the Reds in June but the contract has yet to be ratified as his ARU contract, which includes a top-up of payments for national representation, has not been finalised.
Cooper said in a post on his Twitter account that he wanted to play alongside close friend Sonny Bill Williams, who shares the same manager and ditched All Blacks career earlier this season to play rugby in Japan.
Former rugby league player Williams has also been touted as playing in the NRL next season.
Long a polarising figure among Australian rugby fans and pundits, Cooper’s latest storm has divided opinion, drawing both sympathy and condemnation alike in social media.
His loss to Australian rugby would nonetheless hit Queensland hard, with the playmaker’s spark instrumental in dragging the stuttering franchise to the 2011 title and trebling membership over the past few seasons.
Carmichael’s comments suggested the wrangling over the Wallabies contract had contributed to Cooper’s outburst.
“Quade is aware that we as a governing body are working on a range of issues relating to this (discontent),” Carmichael said.
“From our part we are working with all of the stake-holders in the game, including the ARU for a good outcome for rugby.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by John O'Brien