Cooper's up in the air
INTERNATIONAL rugby star Quade Cooper hinted yesterday that he might not turn out to play for the Queensland Reds until after Easter.
Cooper, 23, faced a barrage of questions about when he expected to return from the severe knee injury that ended his World Cup campaign in October last year.
Tipped to return at the end of this month, he has been hammered by the same questions for the past three weeks - since the start of the Super Rugby season.
Queensland, the Super 15 champion, has been far from convincing in winning its first three games this season.
The side will play two matches in South Africa in the next fortnight, including a game against the Bulls at high altitude in Pretoria on March 25.
Cooper insisted Queensland was going well without him, particularly with replacement five-eighth Michael Harris kicking so well.
Giant lock Adam Wallace-Harrison, also not touring because of a knee injury, agreed.
Wallace-Harrison admitted that the Reds attack had been "a little frayed" in the opening games.
"But we have had wins," he said. "That's significant.
"We are not far from clicking - it's only a good finishing pass away."
Wallace-Harrison said that last year it took a little while for the Reds to blow the cobwebs out, too.
"But yeah, the South Africans - particularly the Bulls - will put us to the test," he said.
Wallace-Harrison pointed out that the South African tour, which the red-hot Reds used as a springboard into the finals series last year, was much earlier in the draw this year.
Cooper, Wallace-Harrison, and promising University prop Kevin Davis - the latter brought into the Reds playing group, were on the Sunshine Coast yesterday to launch the Reds for Africa charity campaign at Australia Zoo.
Cooper steadfastly refused to tip when he was likely to take the field again.
"I'm keeping an open mind, but it is more than just getting the body right," he said.
"I have to be confident I am right before I can go further.
"Look, it may even be later than round six (on March 30-31) before I can come back ... I just don't know at this stage."
Cooper, who had to wear a leg brace after his anterior cruciate ligament ruptured in the World Cup bronze medal game against Wales in Auckland, reportedly started sprint training last month.
He said if, when he returned, he lost goal-kicking duties to Harris, it would not bother him.
"Whatever's best for the team," he said.
SOUTH AFRICA BECKONS
Next two games:
- March 17: Sharks v Reds, Durban
- March 24: Bulls v Reds, Pretoria