x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Robbie Deans asks Quade Cooper to focus on Test

Off-field distractions and speculation over the future of Quade Cooper, the fly-half, could affect Australia ahead of their Tri Nations Test against South Africa.

Off-field distractions and speculation over the future of Quade Cooper, the fly-half, could affect Australia ahead of their Tri Nations Test against South Africa in Pretoria, Robbie Deans, the Wallabies coach, has warned. "The peripheral stuff will bite him if it is in the forefront of his mind, and subsequently it will bite the team. I hope that's not the case," Deans said yesterday as the Australians began their build-up to back-to-back games in South Africa.

The 22-year-old Cooper is the target of a lucrative offer from the Parramatta Eels, the NRL team, and could be about to switch to rugby league. He is expected to announce his plans after the Tri Nations tournament, which ends on September 11 in Sydney when they play New Zealand, who have already been crowned the tournament champions. Deans said the playmaker will be considered for selection for Saturday's game despite doubts over his long-term involvement with the national team.

He added Cooper would face a big test at the traditionally intimidating Loftus Versfeld stadium after missing Australia's last two matches through suspension - he was guilty of a dangerous tackle on opposite number Morne Steyn in Australia's 30-13 home win over South Africa on July 24. "He hasn't been in rugby for a few weeks," Deans said, "so to go from nothing to a Tri Nations fixture ... there is a lot at stake and a lot of intensity. The Springboks won't make his life easy."

The two sides are now playing for second place in the Tri Nations table, but Matt Giteau, the Wallabies centre, is convinced both sides will be up for it despite the title being out of reach. "It will be [the South Africa lock] Victor Matfield's 100th game, and it's a game we desperately want to win, too," he said. "The intensity will be right up there, nobody will be making it easy for anyone else."

Giteau also backed Cooper to show his talent in the Pretoria game, if he is selected. "Quade has always been very flashy and always done the flashy things well," he said. "[But] he's really matured [in] his kicking game and the control of his game. He's more consistent and he's doing the small things well, too." South Africa will be out to end a four-match Tri Nations losing streak, Deans added. "They will respond off the back of that pressure and I would suggest it will be even more so," he said. "They won't be enjoying the pressure and they'll be bringing a lot to the table. We'll be doing so as well."

* Reuters