Rugby: Wallabies not distracted by Cooper saga

The Wallabies face Italy in Florence this weekend. Photo / Getty Images
The Wallabies face Italy in Florence this weekend. Photo / Getty Images

Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe says his team's focus is on the remaining two games of their European tour and not the latest controversy surrounding Quade Cooper.

Sharpe said it would be great for rugby if Cooper stayed.

But that seems unlikely with speculation rife Cooper will quit the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) as early as next week with the Khoder Nasser-managed player set to pursue a boxing career.

Although Cooper is a close friend of another Nasser client in boxer-footballer Sonny Bill Williams, he has never spoken seriously about a desire to box before.

It's still unknown if the move to boxing is legitimate or just a ploy to garner a better top-up contract from the ARU.

Sharpe said Cooper's actions didn't impact on the team and they were focused on Tests against Italy on Saturday (Sunday NZT) in Florence and Wales a week later in Cardiff.

"Quade's a tremendous footballer. He's a guy that brings a lot of panache to any team he plays for ... what he does is going to be a decision that he comes to. I don't know the internal workings of it all but it would be great for rugby if he stays in the game," Sharpe told AAP in Florence.

"Every player goes through their own contract negotiations in different ways and, obviously, Quade's is pretty public.

"In terms of the impact on the team, we've had a really good internal focus on how we deal with that ...

"I think we saw with the ('toxic environment') comments that were made while we were in South Africa, we bounced back from that well and focused really well. We had a good performance in Argentina and then against New Zealand in Brisbane, so I'm not concerned about that."

Neither the ARU nor QRU had been informed by Cooper or his agent that he intended walking away from his three-year Super Rugby deal with the Reds which would take him through to the 2015 World Cup.

This latest drama surrounding the five-eighth comes after the ARU offered him a low-grade incentive-based deal for 2013.

The offer has been tabled in the past fortnight, since the 24-year-old was slugged with a $40,000 fine for his criticism of the Wallabies, telling AAP in September the national team housed a "toxic environment".

He'd originally failed to sign off on a more-significant ARU deal that was first put to him in July after he re-signed with the Reds.

QRU boss Jim Carmichael and Reds' coach Ewen McKenzie have consistently stated their confidence that the star playmaker would remain at Ballymore in 2013.

The story of Cooper leaving rugby came a couple of days after the Wallabies shored up coach Robbie Deans's position for next year with a stoic 20-14 win over England at Twickenham.

-AAP

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