Cooper needs to earn place with Wallabies

Last updated 15:45 01/11/2012
Cooper STR
ISOLATED: Cooper faces a hard time earning back the respect of his teammates

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The body language of two key Wallabies suggests Quade Cooper is not yet onside with his colleagues despite being fined $A40, 000 and threatened with a three-game ban for his caustic comments about the team's "toxic" environment.

Influential flanker David Pocock and rival five-eighth Berrick Barnes today appeared far from enthusiastic about the prospects of Cooper returning to the national side once he recovers from a knee injury - as the Australian Rugby Union adopts a cautious approach to renewing the controversial playmaker's contract when it expires on December 31.

After being punished and placed on a virtual good behaviour bond by the ARU for two code of conduct breaches yesterday Cooper issued a public apology in relation to comments he made in September that were critical of the team set-up and the defensive game plan enforced by coach Robbie Deans.

The 24-year-old claimed via social media site Twitter and then in an extensive interview on Fox Sports' "The Rugby Club" that the team environment was "destroying me as a person and as a player" which led to him questioning his commitment to the Australian jersey.

Cooper said he would refuse to be selected for the Wallabies two remaining games in the Rugby Championship, a threat that did not sit well with teammates.

Shortly after Cooper aired his grievances, experienced wing Drew Mitchell said he was most disappointed with the pivot "refusing the jersey".

Ultimately Cooper was unavailable due to injury and after a five-hour tribunal hearing that imposed $A60,000 worth of fines ($A20,000 suspended for two years) and a three-game ban (also suspended for two years) he indicated a considerable change of heart by expressing remorse a desire to return to the Wallabies fold.

He is ruled out of the end of year tour to Europe so would only be able to resume an international career tarnished by last year's World Cup when the British and Irish Lions tour Australia next June.

Pocock, the Wallabies initial captain this season until he was injured, was relieved the issue had been resolved but stopped short of welcoming Cooper back with open arms when asked if he would be happy to play alongside the maverick No.10.

"Yeah .... If Quade gets back to the Wallabies and get picked by the coaches he would have earned it. If you earn your place in the jersey, the boys will play with you."

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Barnes was also restrained, deflecting questions by pointing out he did not select the team.

Also asked if he would have a problem playing alongside Cooper, Barnes bristled: "I'm not going to comment on any of the stuff with Quade.

"If he gets back into it he'll earn because he earns it and blokes will play with him because of that."

Former Wallabies fullback Matt Burke suspected Cooper would not play another test and could be lost to the code.

"I don't know whether he'll be back in the fold, I don't think he'll be back in an Australian jersey," he told Bigpond Sport.

"Queensland are trying to smooth over the transition with the ARU, we'll have to wait and see."

Cooper has a three-year deal with the Reds and a staunch defender in Queensland Rugby Union chief executive Jim Carmichael.

"For Quade to accept the penalty he was handed and to offer to make a public apology after an extremely difficult day, I'm hopeful is evidence of how much he understands the gravity of his actions and also shows his sincerity in wanting to move forward with his career with the Reds and the Wallabies," Carmichael said.

- Fairfax Media

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