The news broke today that controversial fly-half Quade Cooper has been left out of Robbie Deans’ initial ‘logistics camp’ (whatever that is) for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour to Australia. It is not the final squad, but presumably the bulk of those picked will be in the mix when it is eventually whittled down to 25 men.
This is not the first time Cooper and Deans have come to blows. Last October he was banned for three games and handed a fine for ‘bringing the game into disrepute’. He took to social media to describe the environment in the national camp under Deans as toxic. So really, this latest snub is no great surprise – you cannot expect to publicly criticise the coach and get away with it. It shows a lack of loyalty and a fairly childish attitude.
His form this year has been patchy. He started poorly, and that was put down to the absence of Will Genia. When the mercurial scrum-half is inside him, Cooper seems a different player. They have played together since under-15 level and are easily the most settled 9/10 combination on offer to the Wallabies. So has Deans missed a trick in leaving Cooper out of his initial squad? Perhaps it is designed to be a kick up the backside for a player who is outrageously gifted but who seems to struggle badly with his attitude to the game and to authority.
It could be a test for Cooper – will he take to Twitter to vent his frustration, or will he get his head down and produce the kind of form that will mean Deans can ignore him no longer? Time will tell, but for the Lions’ sake let’s hope it’s the former. That said, he has made all the right noises in interviews this week, insisting that his relationship with Deans is fine and that he is solely focussed on the challenges facing the Reds over the coming weeks.
With Kurtley Beale currently taking time away from the game to deal with his alcohol issues, the Aussies’ fly-half options seem to hinge on James O’Connor. Another outrageously talented player, it is not a critical situation for them yet. He has, however, been playing most of his rugby this year at full-back, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with being thrust back into the primary play-making and game-controlling role – Freddie Michalak’s Six Nations meltdown comes to mind as an example of how this strategy can go horribly wrong.
So, have Quade’s chances of playing the Lions vanished? Or is this a gauntlet laid down by Robbie Deans? Is that even the right strategy, given Cooper is obviously a fragile character whose game depends greatly on confidence? Have your say below.