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Quade Cooper to stay in Australian rugby and head to Rio Olympics

Staying: Quade Cooper. Photo: Chris Hyde
Nanjing Night Net

EXCLUSIVE

Quade Cooper can start planning to add a set of Olympic rings to his tattoo collection after spurning the mega-bucks of French rugby to pledge his future to Australia, beginning with a tilt at the Rio Sevens next year.

After an exhaustive contracting process, Fairfax Media understands Cooper will confirm a four-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union rather than take up the option of a lucrative contract at French glamour club Toulon.

Part of that deal will include a stint with the Sevens program for the Rio Games, where Cooper will have the opportunity to fulfil a long-standing Olympic dream and potentially take on close friend Sonny Bill Williams, who has committed to the New Zealand cause.

Cooper will then settle on a Super Rugby franchise for the 2017 season and it’s not beyond the realms of probability that he returns to the field with the Queensland Reds after the province abruptly put an end to negotiations last month, although he would be certain to attract interest from rival camps.

It also means he will remain in the Wallaby program for the long-term after it seemed certain the 27-year-old would join fellow Reds stalwarts James Horwill and Will Genia offshore, although there now remains some uncertainty over Genia’s deal with Stade Francais.

Cooper has loved every minute of training under new Wallaby coach Michael Cheika and was never wholly committed to leaving home shores. The details of how he dealt with a release fee from Toulon that ran into the hundreds of thousands remains to be seen but the result is a good one for the ARU, with Cooper one of its most bankable faces.

He has the rest of the Rugby Championship and a World Cup to get through yet but ARU sources are well aware of the profile Cooper could add to a battling Sevens program closer to and during the Rio Olympics.

With a Kiwi side featuring a number of headline stars, Cooper will give Australian rugby an ace up its sleeve during the Olympic cycle, while his free-wheeling game looks a perfect fit for the Sevens game.

The ARU had made no secret of its desire to keep Cooper on its books, although he would have qualified for the 60-cap rule over coming weeks that would have allowed him to be selected for the Wallabies from Europe.

He was given first crack at his old Wallaby No.10 jumper ahead of Bernard Foley and has ardent supporters in Cheika and new Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham, who know he’s a confidence player that performs at his best in a positive environment.

Cooper’s long-term deal completes a happy double for the ARU after they locked away Waratahs and Wallaby fullback Israel Folau until 2018 earlier this month.

The Sevens team has yet to qualify for Rio and are unlikely to do so until November this year. Cooper would be likely to join the squad in the New Year and take part in a number of warm-up tournaments to ready himself for the Olympic assignment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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