FLORENCE: Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has declined to comment on uncertainty surrounding Quade Cooper’s future in Australian rugby.
Deans said he had “no idea” what the state of play was with Cooper’s contract and was knee-deep in preparations for the Wallabies third Test of their spring tour, against Italy on Sunday.
“[I am] not interested in talking about it, we’re preparing for a Test,” he said. “No idea what [is happening].”
Cooper is reportedly poised to announce his intentions at a media conference on Monday after the ARU tabled an offer understood to be smaller than the contract offered before he publicly criticised the Wallabies, coach Robbie Deans and the ARU and was fined $40,000.
Neither Cooper nor his manager have made any public comments about the offer, while ARU high performance manager David Nucifora on Tuesday rejected claims it was a “rookie” level contract and denied there was bad blood between the union and the estranged Reds playmaker. Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe said on Monday Cooper’s departure would be a loss for Australian rugby.
The Wallabies have spent the week preparing to face what fullback Berrick Barnes called an “enlivened” Italian outfit.
“I think they’re a fair bit more expansive than in the past … [coach] Jacques Brunel has enlivened them a bit and they were particularly good last week, you’ve only got to go with Conrad Smith’s quote saying it was one of the toughest games they’d played all year to know they mean business,” Barnes said.
“It’s just shown this year that in the top 10 teams this year there’s not a hell of a lot of difference between each one and we’ve walked away with our tails between our legs many times this year by not aiming up. This is an important game.”
Brunel made two changes to the starting side that played the All Blacks last weekend, replacing lock Antonio Pavanello with Quintin Geldenhuys and openside flanker Simone Favaro with Robert Barbieri.
Queenslander Luke McLean, who moved to Italy to play five years ago, will start from the bench.
Deans said the four personnel changes Australia made for this Test were all about giving the Wallabies “fresh legs” against a tough competitor.
Halfback Brett Sheehan, who will earn his seventh Test cap but maiden start tomorrow, is one of the changes, along with hooker Stephen Moore, winger Drew Mitchell and back rower Scott Higginbotham.
Sheehan, who came into the Test side as injury cover after Will Genia injured his knee, said he was hoping to bring a “bit of noise” to the Wallabies, as well as his trade mark physicality.
“I’m extremely excited to get the call up and starting,” he said.
“[I was] given the opportunity to join the squad three months ago and I’ve absolutely loved it and been able to take my chances when I’ve been given a go.
“I’ve hung in there and it’s good to be able to back myself and give it a go and hopefully give the team a bit of a boost as well.”
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