Rugby Union


Brumbies quiz ARU over Cooper deal

The ACT Brumbies fear Quade Cooper's boxing bout just eight days before the Super Rugby season will set a dangerous precedent for contract dealings and will ask the ARU if the five-eighth's stint in the ring will count towards the Queensland Reds' salary cap.

Cooper re-signed with the Australian Rugby Union on Friday on what is believed to be a beefed-up deal worth $800,000.

But a week before the Brumbies begin their Super season against the Reds at Canberra Stadium next year, Cooper will be allowed to jump in the ring for his boxing debut on February 8. Cooper will fight on the undercard of Sonny Bill Williams' bout with Francois Botha.

The Canberra Times understands the Brumbies have sought clarification to see if Cooper's boxing earnings would be included with his Queensland deal. There are strict third-party earnings regulations with rugby contracts.

The Brumbies are concerned allowing Cooper to be paid outside of his Reds and ARU duties will open the door for players to seek similar earning opportunities.

In the past, the Wallabies have refused to pick players not based in Australia, but it appears the ARU is prepared to let Cooper compete in another sport just days before the Super Rugby competition begins.


Cooper's negotiations with the ARU had stalled and the Wallabies star publicly criticised Australia coach Robbie Deans for the ''toxic'' environment within the team. He was fined, and then walked away from rugby to announce his boxing debut. Finally, he turned his back on a lucrative French deal before committing to continuing with the Reds and Wallabies.

The 24-year-old will get a brutal welcoming in Canberra on February 16, just eight days after absorbing body blows in the ring. Brumbies coach Jake White said the unusual preparation would be a distraction for the Reds.

Queensland will already be without Will Genia, who has had knee surgery, and Cooper could be on limited duties. ''I would find it extremely difficult to lose a guy like him [Cooper] for periods of time in the build-up to a competition,'' White said. ''There's no way it can be beneficial.

''It's not an attack, but we got some good rewards for having the same squad every week last year with a relatively inexperienced team and I'd imagine the Reds would love to have Cooper around leading into the season.

''I'm sure if [Reds coach] Ewen [McKenzie] could, he would have his team there all the time.''

Cooper was on the verge of walking away from Australian rugby last month when his management was at loggerheads with the ARU.

He had already committed to a three-year deal with the Reds, but negotiations on his ARU contract prevented him from doing anything. Despite his outburst against the Wallabies' team culture, he is still viewed as one of the most dangerous players in the world and will be vital to Australia's hopes of success against the British and Irish Lions next year.

''I think it's fantastic [Cooper's] staying in the game, we need to keep guys like him,'' White said. ''Having someone like Sonny Bill Williams going to rugby league is not a good thing for our code.

''Having Quade recommit to rugby is great because he does draw a crowd, it doesn't matter what people think of him because he brings people to watch the game.''