Quade Cooper must have been angry at Mourad Boudjellal for making him stay last weekend, even though his contract stipulated he could join the Australian Sevens team for the Wellington and Sydney Sevens.
Because of that decision, he now joins the team only a few days ahead of their home tournament. And what’s worse for him, there is no certainty he will actually be playing.
Though Andy Friend, the coach of the Australia Mens Sevens, has not been as vocal about the ambitious 15’s players as New Zealand’s Gordon Tietjens has been, it did emerge today that the three big names that have signed up to try and win a medal for their country in Rio are by no means a certainty.
Henry Speight did join the team for Dubai and will be with the team this coming weekend in Sydney, and he impressed enough to merit some credit. He has been with the extended squad since the November Olympic qualifiers, and has been learning the game for a while now, as well as spending his childhood in Fiji watching the game.
Nick Cummins, the Honeybadger, is still with his club in Japan and will only be released for the final four World Series tournaments (Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris) and the Olympics. And while that might not seem a lot either, he has played Sevens for Australia for years before this. He was the top scorer in the 2007 World Series and was part of the 2010 silver medal winning team at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. So he has definitely got the experience and knows the game better than any of the big names that put their hands up for Rio.
Cooper’s friend and possible opponent on Saturday, Sonny Bill Williams stated after the Wellington final how difficult he thought it was. We know SBW as a rugby genius, who easily hops between union and league, while throwing in a spot of boxing from time to time, but he was very clear about how much he still has to learn, particularly when it comes to reading the game as well as dealing with it’s pace.
New Zealand’s Ardie Savea in contrast performed better than SBW in their debut tournament and is proof the game can be picked up very quickly. Indeed he is becoming a star of the game very rapidly, but watching him during the Wellington Sevens it was obvious he too has a lot to learn compared to the players who have been playing for a few years.
Quade Cooper is released for a total of three tournaments, of which the Sydney Sevens is one. He might appear again at the Las Vegas Sevens in early March and then is free for one more tournament. Without also training with the squad for extended periods of time, he will certainly struggle to adapt. He may have every quality necessary to become a good Sevens player, but just on that basis it is doubtful he will do well.
He will arrive in Sydney on Wednesday, with the tournament starting on Saturday. That is why Andy Friend might be reluctant to even try him out there. In two days he has to decide whether Cooper is physically up to the job and whether he slots into the team.
And so, even if he does play this weekend, it is by no means certain he will be with the team in Rio.
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