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Cooper has two chances to show Test panel a seven-month break hasn't dulled him

Date

Jim Morton

Elusive … Wallaby Quade Cooper out-steps a Welsh defender during a Rugby World Cup game in Auckland; and inset, as water boy for the Reds against the Chiefs last weekend.

Elusive … Wallaby Quade Cooper out-steps a Welsh defender during a Rugby World Cup game in Auckland; and inset, as water boy for the Reds against the Chiefs last weekend. Photo: Getty Images

QUEENSLAND Reds drawcard Quade Cooper has two auditions, including a shock Super Rugby start on Saturday night, to regain his Wallabies No.10 jersey in next month's internationals.

Two days after Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie said that for Cooper to return from knee surgery this weekend would be a miracle, the 35-Test playmaker will make his long-awaited reappearance when the Reds play the last-placed Lions at Suncorp Stadium.

Rather than being eased off the bench, Cooper will start at five-eighth just four days after his first full contact training session.

Water boy  ... Quade Cooper assisted for the Reds against the Chiefs.

Water boy ... Quade Cooper assisted for the Reds against the Chiefs. Photo: Getty Images

He is confident he will immediately be able to produce the same jinking runs and playmaking nous which helped to win last year's Super Rugby and Tri Nations titles.

''Confidence isn't something that I lack,'' he quipped yesterday. ''Going out there and playing footy is what I love to do. If those opportunities [to step around players] arise, I know I've done the hard work. It's been a tough time, and a very long time at that, and I'm just so excited to be back as a part of the [Reds] team.''

If he is able to come through the Lions clash and the pivotal encounter with the Brumbies in Canberra the following Saturday with no mishaps, Cooper will be squarely in the frame to play at least one of two back-to-back Tests in early June.

Australia meet Scotland in Newcastle on June 5 before taking on Wales in Brisbane in the first of a three-Test series against the Six Nations champions four days later.

With James O'Connor also sidelined by injury, Test fullback Kurtley Beale has become the frontrunner to play five-eighth following two stand-out displays at No.10 for the Melbourne Rebels.

Cooper, who has not played since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament seven months ago at the end of his disappointing World Cup campaign, admitted thoughts of his own Wallabies return remained ''a long way away''.

''That's not my focus at all,'' he said. ''My focus is solely getting out there this weekend and playing good footy. If those things arise, we'll think about them when they come. I know on the weekend the Lions will be coming for me and they will be coming for the team.''

Cooper's return means stand-in Reds five-eighth Ben Lucas reverts to fullback, knocking Luke Morahan onto the bench, but playmaking centre Mike Harris will keep the goalkicking duties. The Reds made two other changes to the starting side which upset the Chiefs 42-27 on Sunday, with front-rowers Greg Holmes and Saia Faingaa replacing Ben Daley and James Hanson, while boom winger Chris Feauai-Sautia is set to make his debut off the bench.

Reds: 15. Ben Lucas, 14. Dom Shipperley, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 12. Mike Harris, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 7. Liam Gill, 6. Jake Schatz, 5. James Horwill (c), 4. Rob Simmons, 3. James Slipper, 2. Saia Faingaa, 1. Greg Holmes. Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Eddie Quirk, Nick Frisby, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Luke Morahan.

AAP

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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