Quade Cooper will play the season opener, and there’s possibly only one man happier about that than his Queensland teammates: rival No.10 Matt Toomua.
Queensland Reds Quade Cooper has declared he’ll play the Super Rugby season opener, and it’s music to the ears of his number one rival Matt Toomua.
The Brumbies flyhalf is keen to get the better of the incumbent Wallabies No.10 when the two sides meet in Canberra on Saturday.
The duo have been tussling over No.10 jersey since their Queensland schoolboys days, and the episode stepped up another notch during last year’s Test season when Cooper reclaimed the primary playmaking role off Toomua – who finished his season at No.12.
Cooper was in doubt for Saturday’s grudge clash after injuring his neck in the trial loss to the Melbourne Rebels before declaring on Tuesday that he was “100 per cent” certain he would play.
The only person happier to hear that than Cooper’s teammates might be Toomua himself.
“Yeah of course (I want him to play),” Toomua said.
“First and foremost because I care about his health, you don’t like seeing a guy get taken off on a stretcher.”
But it’s also about testing yourself against the best, says Toomua.
“Me and (Nic) White are one of the back-up (Wallabies halves pairings) so we’re trying to push for that selection and try and prove ourselves,” he said.
“I don’t want to harp on because it’s a team effort, but you’re definitely lying if you say you don’t.”
The Toomua vs Cooper battle is a chalk and cheese rivalry.
Cooper attracts almost unparalleled media attention through his razzle-dazzle style, while Toomua has built his game around a steady-as-you-go approach that is complemented by a booming right boot and rib-rattling tackles.
But limiting Cooper’s influence won’t be as simple as shooting up in defence and cutting down his space, says Toomua.
“You bring a few guys with you and you don’t just do it mindlessly,” Toomua said.
“Guys like Quade and Will (Genia) you can’t defend individually because you won’t get them – it’s got to be within a system.
“We’ve got a few ideas how we’ll do that. It’s definitely something that’s been spoken about.”
Who Toomua brings up with him in that defensive line won’t be known until Thursday, with head coach Stephen Larkham still to decide whether Wallabies outside centre Tevita Kuridrani will have enough gas in the tank to start following a five-match suspension.