Reds get scare as Cooper's knee flares
"We're excited to see what he can produce against his former province" ... Reds coach Ewan McKenzie. Photo: Getty Images
THE Queensland Reds aren't concerned an aggravation to the knee of star playmaker Quade Cooper will seriously impede his comeback after he was sent for scans yesterday.
Cooper had played in a game of touch football in Brisbane on Wednesday night, which he organised via Twitter, and looked in fine spirits as he danced around the park with some of his trademark twists and jinks.
But his knee flared up the day after the game and the Reds' medical staff sent him for an precautionary scan, which showed no evidence of new injury to the ligaments he badly damaged in the World Cup.
Rehab from a full reconstruction means he hasn't played for the Reds this season but his recovery had been on track and his gradual immersion back into Super Rugby seemed only weeks away, although a date had yet to be set.
The news is a setback for Cooper but sources said last night there was no indication the ''tweak'' would mean a further delay as the Reds star tries to find his feet in time for the business end of the season.
Cooper's continued absence means rookie Sam Lane gets another crack at the No.10 jumper when the Reds host the Stormers tonight in Brisbane.
The Reds have discovered how difficult life can be without their midfield contingent - Mike Harris, Ben Lucas and Cooper - and when one of them was again available, it would not have been surprising if he had been immediately shunted back into the No.10 position.
Harris has been missing for the last three matches, after getting injured in Durban during the loss to the Sharks, but rather than moving into five-eighth, will return at inside-centre, allowing Lane to remain the team's chief playmaker.
Lane, the son of former Wallabies midfielder and now Manly coach Tim Lane, played his first game against the Brumbies in the Reds' last match, and for a raw 21-year-old showed good poise. Considering Lane's background, it is also not surprising that he has been retained to play the leading South African province.
Lane spent some of his high school years in South Africa, and before joining Australian rugby's national academy at the start of this season, was a member of the Stormers' provincial outfit, Western Province.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said Lane had ''produced under difficult circumstances and on short notice'' against the Brumbies, ''so we're excited to see what he can produce against his former province''.
Harris's inclusion will see Ben Tapuai being moved to No.13, while Lucas returns via the bench. Working in the Reds' favour is two of the key Stormers players - Jean de Villiers and Andries Bekker - are unavailable, with their fourth-choice captain Duane Vermeulen taking over as skipper.
The injury woes of former Wallabies fullback Cameron Shepherd continues, as he is scheduled to miss the Western Force's next five matches with a wrist injury.
Shepherd, whose career has been dogged by endless injuries, underwent surgery after suffering a ligament tear in his right wrist during last Friday night's loss to the Waratahs in Perth. Shepherd is not expected to return until after the Super Rugby tournament break in late June.
Cooper Vuna returns via the Melbourne Rebels' reserves bench following his two-match suspension to play the Waratahs, while centre Mitch Inman, who has a damaged hand, has been replaced by Lloyd Johansson. Rebels captain Stirling Mortlock may miss all of the season due to a chronic calf injury.