Rugby: Cooper Crusher tackles need rethink

There are no hard feelings towards the Melbourne Rebels but Quade Cooper has hinted rugby's lawmakers should investigate outlawing some tackles already banned by league after "one of the scariest moments" of his career.

A stiff and sore Cooper confirmed yesterday he would play in the Queensland Reds' Super Rugby season opener against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night, after completing a second session since the trial match tackle that sent him to hospital.

Scans cleared Cooper of damage after he copped a heavy tackle by bulky Rebels back-rower Lopeti Timani and was stretchered off on Friday night.

"I don't harbour any hard feelings towards any of the Rebels for the way they played the game, they played with great physicality," Cooper said.

"That's what you sign up for when you play rugby.

"There was a bit of a crusher tackle about it, but at the end of the day freak accidents happen all the time - I am happy I came out unscathed."

But asked if officials should look at banning crusher-type tackles, Cooper said: "There are always areas that can be investigated.

"Rugby league have really cracked down on those sorts of tackles.

"They have taken out the shoulder charge which has helped in bringing down the concussion rate.

"I think there are only rules about lifting tackles in rugby.

"You can chicken wing, crusher tackle. I don't think there is anything stopping you from doing that - [but] that's for other people to look at."

The NRL has this year stepped up a campaign to eliminate the crusher tackle, where a tackled player's head and neck are pressured so much that their neck usually comes in contact with the chest.

Warriors utility Dominique Peyroux will miss the NRL opening round after pleading guilty to a crusher tackle during a trial match against the Gold Coast this month.

"At the end of the day we are the ones playing the game and if we thought there was too much risk we wouldn't be playing the game," Cooper said.

"You can't rule everything out. You just have to get on with it."

Still, Cooper admits he feared he might never play again as he was taken away by ambulance on Friday night.

"It was one of the scariest moments of my footy career," he said.

"In the ambulance thinking I may never get the chance to play again put life in perspective and that you should never take anything for granted."

Cooper wore neck strapping at training yesterday.

- AAP

How they're shaping up

Coach: Stephen Larkham
Captain: Ben Mowen
Home ground: Canberra Stadium
2013 finish: Finalists
Titles won: 2
Welcomed: Harumichi Tatekawa, Jack Whetton, Lionel Cronje, Conrad Hoffmann, Jarrad Butler.
Farewelled: Jake White (coach), George Smith, Peter Kimlin, Colby Fainga'a, Dan Palmer, Zack Holmes.

Last year's finalists could struggle given the departure of arguably their biggest asset - Jake White, but given he is one of just three departures in the off-season there is a high chance the Brumbies could repeat their 2013 exploits. Conductor Matt Toomua will need to rediscover the form that earned him his first appearance for the national side, while outgoing captain Ben Mowen's task of pushing his forward pack won't be any easier without the evergreen George Smith. New coach and Australian rugby great Stephen Larkham will command respect among the team and will have a large influence on the evolution of his side's dynamic attacking style.

Coach: Allister Coetzee
Captain: Jean de Villiers
Home ground: Newlands
2013 finish: Seventh
Titles won: 0
Welcomed: Demetri Catrakilis, Manuel Carizza, Alistair Vermaak, Kobus van Wyk, Patrick Howard.
Farewelled: Elton Jantjies, Bryan Habana, Andries Bekker, Joe Pietersen, Dewaldt Duvenage.

Famous for keeping out tries and infamous for not scoring many of their own. First five-eighths Eben Etzebeth's injury paves the way for Demetri Catrakilis to orchestrate the potentially potent backline. The playmaker was one of the shining lights for the Southern Kings and should thrive inside the likes of captain Jean de Villiers and Gio Aplon. The Stormers conceded a competition-best 18 tries in 18 matches last season while they could only muster 30 of their own. Allister Coetzee's men have arguably the toughest road trip of the lot, taking on the Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies and Reds before hosting the Waratahs a week later.

- Matiu Workman

dreamteam.co.nz

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