Quade Cooper fit, ready for Wallabies recall

DARREN WALTON
Last updated 21:18 25/07/2013
Quade Cooper
Getty Images
BOX SEAT: Quade Cooper is expected to get the nod at No 10 but will have Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley breathing down his neck.

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Quade Cooper says he is fitter, stronger and mentally in a better place ahead of his recall to the Wallabies fold on Friday.

Cooper will return to the national ranks for the first time since last September when Ewen McKenzie, the mercurial playmaker's No 1 ally, names his maiden squad as new Wallabies coach on Friday morning.

McKenzie will cast his net wide by naming a 40-man squad for the four-nation Rugby Championship starting next month with Australia's eagerly-awaited first Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand in Sydney.

McKenzie said when ushered in as Robbie Deans' successor earlier this month that he was unlikely to make radical changes early in his tenure.

But bringing Cooper back in from the international wilderness will be his first major statement.

"I hope so," Cooper told Fox Sports on Thursday.

"The squad is still to be announced and hopefully my name will be up there with the rest of the boys.

"It will be exciting to be involved with the Wallabies again. But I'm not taking anything for granted."

The 25-year-old's most recent of his 38 Tests, which all came under Deans, was against Argentina on the Gold Coast 10 months ago.

He hasn't featured since injuring his knee and then being fined $40,000 and receiving a ban for three matches - a penalty suspended for two years - for infamously labelling the Wallabies' set-up as "toxic".

Deans overlooked Cooper for the Wallabies' 2-1 series loss to the British and Irish Lions but, with James O'Connor's immediate playing future in Australia up in the air, Cooper looms as Australia's first-choice five-eighth in the Rugby Championship.

"I feel a lot fitter and I'm 100 per cent healthy," Cooper said.

"I had a fair bit of niggly knee injuries at the stage that I last played for the Wallabies, so I feel in a good spot.

"I've learnt a fair bit about myself, especially about hard work and attitude. Those things go a long way on and off the field.

"The harder you work off the field, the more it shows on the field."

O'Connor, Australia's incumbent No 10, remains without a contract for the 2014 Super Rugby competition after being shown the door by the Melbourne Rebels.

Just where he and fellow former Rebel without a club Kurtley Beale, who, like O'Connor, has repeatedly been disciplined for off-field breaches this year, fit in McKenzie's plans remain to be seen.

McKenzie is expected to include both wayward Wallabies in his initial 40-man squad, but it would be no surprise if the pair miss selection for the first Test against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium in three weeks.

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McKenzie indicated this week he would only pick 100 per cent fit and healthy players, meaning the likes of first-choice winger Digby Ioane and No 8 Wycliff Palu may be overlooked.

Classy forwards David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sitaleki Timani are all unavailable due to long-term injuries.

- AAP

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