Rugby: Enigmatic, fickle Cooper just what rugby needs Gatland

The enigmatic Quade Cooper. Photo / Getty Images
The enigmatic Quade Cooper. Photo / Getty Images

Quade Cooper is a "Campese-esque" player who puts bums on seats and is the type rugby needs, according to British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland.

Gatland was asked yesterday if he'd be pleased if controversial Wallabies five-eighth Cooper was no longer on the scene when he brings the Lions to Australia for their three test tour next year.

"Not if he keeps tweeting the way he's tweeting ... he can do whatever he wants! He's an enigma isn't he? When he's on form he does things out of the blue," said Gatland.

"He's got his weaknesses but he puts bums on seats. We'll see how he goes after his boxing escapades."

Gatland was speaking ahead of the season-ending test between Wales and the Wallabies in Cardiff on Sunday.

Cooper's rugby future remains clouded after he refused to sign a downgraded incentive-based Australian Rugby Union (ARU) contract and, with the talks stalled, announced a charity boxing debut in February.

The Queensland Reds star had been heavily fined by the ARU over some controversial tweets and public comments, including describing the Wallabies environment as "toxic".

"People love to hate him in a certain way but I think as a rugby player he's absolute quality," said Gatland, who like Cooper, grew up in the Waikato.

He drew comparisons between Cooper and the leading try-scorer in Wallabies history David Campese.

"He's almost Campese-esque in a way, a little bit different, bit out there, but incredibly talented and pretty exciting when he's on form."

But Gatland suggested the mercurial Cooper could also be a liability if off form, as in the Rugby World Cup last year.

"At times they've tried to hide him defensively at fullback, and done different things. When he's on his game, he's world class."

Gatland is expecting a huge challenge when the Lions tour Australia with big guns like skipper James Horwill, halfback Will Genia and utility James O'Connor set to return for the Wallabies.

"What the Australians have, when they're at full strength, they have four or five players of real firepower and attacking threat from all aspects," he said. "Genia, Cooper, Beale, Ioane, O'Connor - those are the real key game changers. It gives you so many attacking options as a 10 (five-eighth), that you've got those guys around you."

- AFP

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