Team focus ... Stephen Larkham drills the Brumbies back line as preparations come to a head for their Super Rugby opener against Quade Cooper and the Queensland Reds. Photo: Graham Tidy
Quade Cooper's decision to make his boxing debut eight days before the Super Rugby season wouldn't fit in ''Brumbies culture'', but the ACT is refusing to take a potentially battered and bruised playmaker lightly.
Cooper will jump in the ring to fight Barry Dunnett on February 8 before attempting to back up for the Queensland Reds' season-opener against the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on February 16.
It's an unconventional preparation for the clash between Australia's top two Super Rugby franchises.
Quade Cooper at the announcement of his cruiser weight debut. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Four months ago Cooper claimed the Wallabies were suffering from a ''toxic environment'', but the flamboyant five-eighth is now sacrificing rugby preparation for a boxing bout.
The Brumbies started their rebuilding era by establishing a strong team work ethic with every player required to pull his weight.
Backs coach Stephen Larkham said Brumbies players would not be given the same leniency as Cooper, but said the team could not afford to focus on Cooper if it wanted to kick-start the campaign with a win.
''It's a bit strange, isn't it,'' Larkham said of Cooper's bout. ''Even if one of our guys was playing touch footy 10 days before a really important match it wouldn't be right.
''It [wouldn't] sit well with the Brumbies culture, but there are different circumstances up there.
''If it was a Brumbies player, it certainly wouldn't be happening. But in saying that, we're not focused on one person and we want to fix the situation for the whole team.''
The Brumbies will ramp up their preparations next week when they play their first trial match, against the Western Force in Darwin.
Larkham is starting to piece together the back line, which will be without Pat McCabe for at least the start of the regular season.
In the past, teams have tried to attack Cooper's defensive deficiencies and limit his ability to get in free space when he has the ball.
Larkham expects Cooper's boxing training to help him become a stronger defender.
''The training he's doing for this boxing bout by all reports is fantastic,'' Larkham said.
''He's going to be in good physical condition … how much he gets beaten up [in the boxing bout], I'm not sure.
''But we'll be focusing on the whole team trying to find weaknesses across the whole defensive line rather than just one player.''
The Reds were the only Australian team to beat the Brumbies last season and stole their spot in the finals with a last-round victory over the NSW Waratahs.
Despite scoring 41 tries and having a better for-and-against record than Queensland, the Brumbies are keen to add some more flair to their attack this year.
Larkham said the experience gained from Jake White's first year as head coach would help accelerate a new game plan.
Fullback Jesse Mogg is one of the Brumbies who rocketed out of obscurity and into the spotlight with a superb debut season.
He will be locked in a battle with Robbie Coleman for the No.15 jersey. Both have proved they can add an X-factor to the Brumbies' back line.
Mogg burst out of the Canberra club rugby ranks to score four tries and play every game for the Brumbies.
But the Wests flyer isn't satisfied with being a one-season wonder. The 23-year-old is determined to take the next step in his career and chase a dream Wallabies call-up.
Mogg was picked in an extended training squad in June last year after just a handful of games for the Brumbies.
''It's been a quick 12 months but I'm looking to stamp the same authority as I did last year and hopefully go for higher honours,'' Mogg said.
''I'm expecting more of myself this season and so are the coaching staff.
''I just loved being a part [of the Wallabies], my main goal this year is to play well for the Brumbies and hopefully [in the starting side]. You want to test yourself against the current [Wallabies] and you have to keep working.''