Matt Giteau says Australian rugby is strong enough to survive without Quade Cooper. Photo: Getty Images
Wallabies veteran Matt Giteau believes Australian rugby is strong enough to continue without Quade Cooper if the star playmaker decides to leave the sport.
And he is certain that his former ACT Brumbies teammate, Christian Lealiifano, isn't far away from breaking onto the international stage.
Cooper is expected to confirm on Monday he will step into the boxing ring in February, while speculation remains the Queensland Reds star will quit the 15-a-side game after the ARU offered him a downgraded, incentive-based contract.
''He's a great player, but any player is replaceable, I suppose,'' Giteau, who is in Canberra visiting family during a break from the northern hemisphere season with French outfit Toulon, said.
''You build your team around certain players. If he's not there, then, as you've seen, Kurtley Beale will step up, or another player will come through.
''He [Cooper] is very talented and I'm sure Australian rugby would prefer to keep him. We'll wait and see what happens.''
Giteau was capped 92 times for the Wallabies between 2002 and 2011 before he left the Brumbies at the end of last season to play with Toulon in the French Top 14.
The 30-year-old enjoyed his debut season so much that he signed a two-year contract extension until the end of 2014, making a return to finish his career in Super Rugby unlikely.
''It's a long way away; it all depends on if the body holds up,'' he said. ''For me, considering re-signing or not, the passion was to do well in the French competition first.
''Obviously, you'd love to play Test football again, you never say no to that, but Super Rugby wasn't something I was really passionate about and at the end of the day that helped me make my mind up to stay in France.''
Giteau's departure allowed Lealiifano to take over the reins as the Brumbies' chief playmaker. In a sign of his impressive performances, Lealiifano finished second in the Super Rugby Australian player of the year award despite having his season cruelly ended with a dislocated ankle - the injury also ruling him out of the current European tour.
''He's been knocking on the door of the Wallabies for a long time, but he's been unlucky with injuries,'' Giteau said. ''Even when I was at the (Western) Force, he was someone we had to watch because we knew how important he was to the Brumbies.
''I think he's always had that talent in him, and last year confirmed a lot to him that he belongs at a level even higher.
''Hopefully, he has an injury-free year and I'm sure we'll see him in a Wallaby jumper.''
Of his own time with the Wallabies, Giteau is content with his decision to continue his career in France, therefore making him ineligible for Australia.
''It's refreshed me a lot and I'm really enjoying my rugby,'' he said.
He will fly out on Tuesday to resume duties with Toulon, along with wife Bianca and 11-month-old son Levi.
The next big tug of war will be over Levi's sporting allegiance, with his adopted homeland making an early play. ''The French people think he's going to play for Les Bleus,'' Giteau laughed. ''We're there for two more years yet, so if we come back to Australia, then Australia it is.''