SYDNEY (Reuters) - Unwanted Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper has been granted permission to leave the Queensland Reds, but the door on him playing for the side in Super Rugby this season has still not been completely closed, according to coach Brad Thorn.
Cooper, who played 70 tests for the Wallabies, was told late last year by Thorn, a World Cup winning All Blacks lock, that he probably would not be required this season.
The 29-year-old has not trained with the Reds since, even though he is still contracted with the Brisbane-based team until after the 2019 season.
Thorn, speaking to reporters on Thursday in Brisbane for the first time since his decision, said the team would not stand in Cooper’s way if he secured another professional contract.
“(It’s) the least we could do,” Thorn said when asked if Cooper was free to pursue other opportunities. “He’s played over 100 games for this club - he’s had success here.
“He’s a guy who’s served this club really well. Respect to the guy, but we’re just going in a different way.”
Thorn, who replaced former Wallabies prop Nick Stiles at the helm of the 2011 Super Rugby champions, said he felt Cooper, who has also been discarded by the Wallabies, had struggled last year after he returned after just one season in Europe.
“I thought Quade last year ... the team struggled, his game management, his attack, his defence (struggled),” Thorn added.
“I’m in this role - sometimes you’ve got to make tough decisions.”
While Cooper was still contracted to the Reds he would play club rugby in Brisbane and Thorn said there was a slim chance he could still be called into the Reds if there was an injury crisis.
“We’re doing what we’re doing now. But he’s part of the squad,” Thorn said as he prepared the team for their season opener against the Melbourne Rebels on Feb. 23.
“He’ll be trying his best with his club rugby and it’s a tough old season, isn’t it?
“At the moment, we’ve got some depth around that position - Hamish Stewart coming through, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas can play there.
“It’s competitive, which is what I’m getting a little bit excited about - I’m liking the competition in most positions and I feel like maybe that hasn’t been here.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty