Mercurial St.George Queensland Reds playmaker Quade Cooper becomes the latest Wallaby star to return to the team from injury after being selected at flyhalf for Saturday’s match against South Africa’s Lions at Suncorp Stadium.
The Wallabies dynamo has been announced in the starting line-up where he will receive crucial minutes on the field in his first outing since suffering a serious ACL injury in the Wallabies’ World Cup Bronze playoff encounter against Wales on October 21, 2011.
His timely inclusion comes in a month where a number of big names have returned to strengthen the side’s finals hopes with the Reds currently riding a wave of momentum following their morale boosting 42-27 victory over the then competition leading Chiefs at the weekend.
The decision to select Cooper in his famed number 10 jersey came after the talented 24-year-old responded positively to a series of tests on Tuesday afternoon at the team’s training session at Ballymore.
His return comes less than seven months after suffering the injury and after a season in which he played an influential role in the Reds 2011 Super Rugby success, where he featured in all 18 games during their campaign, breaking the all-time individual Reds point-scoring record in the process with 228 points.
Cooper said he had done everything possible to prepare for his return and was eager to return to action.
“It has been a long six-plus months on the sideline and I know I’ve done everything I can to tick all the boxes during my rehab and have been as diligent as possible to ensure I am ready to return,” Cooper said.
“Everything which could be done has been done and the rest is now out of my hands. I’ll be going out on Saturday knowing I’ve done everything within my power to be prepared both physically and mentally and it’s now about going out and doing the best that I can for the team.
“It has been special to see all the support I’ve had from fans while I’ve been injured and all their well-wishes just make you more determined to get back out there. They’ve been a real motivator during my rehab and I hope to see them all out at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.”
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the team would be lifted by Cooper’s presence.
“There’s no denying Quade has enormous x-factor but for him this match is about getting back out of the field and getting comfortable again within the matchday environment,” McKenzie said.
“It has been a long layoff for him and the next few weeks before our bye will be invaluable as he again finds his feet. Everyone is excited to see him back out there but it’s important we manage him the right way during this period.
“He has been back training with the team for some time now and you can expect him to get better the more match fitness he gains and the more minutes he gets out on the field to refine combinations.”
Cooper’s injection results in talented playmaker Ben Lucas shifting to fullback with Luke Morahan part of a more traditional 4-3 split on the bench which also includes Nick Frisby and Chris F’Sautia in the backs.
F’Sautia is in line to make his FxPro Super Rugby debut should be called upon after overcoming a hamstring injury that has plagued him since early in the season.
There are two further changes in the front-row with prop Greg Holmes and Saia Faingaa coming into the starting XV in a straight swap for Ben Daley and James Hanson who move back to the bench.
St.George Queensland Reds team to face Lions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday
1. Greg Holmes
2. Saia Faingaa
3. James Slipper
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (c)
6. Jake Schatz
7. Liam Gill
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Digby Ioane
12. Mike Harris
13. Anthony Faingaa
14. Dom Shipperley
15. Ben Lucas
16. James Hanson
17. Ben Daley
18. Adam Wallace-Harrison
19. Eddie Quirk
20. Nick Frisby
21. Chris F’Sautia
22. Luke Morahan