Cooper eyes early return

2012-02-23 11:21
Quade Cooper (Gallo)
Sydney - Quade Cooper has signalled a potential early playing return is on the cards as his recovery from injury continues ''very much ahead of schedule''.

The flyhalf was in an expansive mood at a promotional event in Sydney on Wednesday, buoyed by a single, niggle-free kick off his right foot - his first since a knee injury ended his Rugby World Cup campaign last year.

''I was a bit nervous, like taking your first steps, that was my first kick off my right foot, I kicked them all off my left and then did one off my right, and it felt sweet,'' he said following a kicking and throwing competition with Waratahs rivals Drew Mitchell, Rocky Elsom and Brendan McKibbin at Sydney Harbour.

''It feels great, so I'll be ringing the physio and saying I'm ready to start kick practice again this week.''

The 23-year-old refused to put a timeline on his return to the Reds' playing ranks but said his rehabilitation was going well.

''The whole regime is all starting to look towards an earlier comeback,'' Cooper said.

''I don't have a goal, I know there's been a lot of talk from Ewen [McKenzie] and the Reds of a date being like the Brumbies game, which is round six, but at the same time, I'm not setting a date and saying anything because I don't want to get my hopes up for a date … and it be put off a week or two.

''I'm just making sure that as soon as it feels right and I'm confident, then I'll get back out there and get amongst the boys.''

Last week, Cooper ran for the first time since the injury, to catch a flight. He completed about 1500m at training on Wednesday, pulling up ''really well''.

He called the lay-off a ''blessing in disguise'' and said he would return to the field a more ''complete player''.

''I want to be a better player throughout, not just be the same player that's there before,'' Cooper said. ''I'm not taking six to nine months off for no reason so, in that time, I want to work on the skill aspect of my game and the physical aspects of my game, so I want to be in a better physical position than I was and, mentally, be a lot tougher.''

In the meantime, Cooper threw his support behind Mike Harris, who will debut as the Reds' starting No 10 on Saturday.

''What he brings to the table is that he's very much a big boy; he's about 95 kilos, he's very solid in attack,'' he said. ''He's more of a ball runner, so he'll be able to take the ball onto the line and really get some front-foot ball for the boys if need be and … if there's no options, he's one who can truck it up [the field].''

Cooper also nominated Harris's kicking skills as a strength, putting the Waratahs on notice that penalties conceded inside the 50-metre mark could be costly.

But in disappointing news for excitement-starved Sydney fans, Cooper warned not to expect the running rugby style which the Reds became known for last season.

''I'm sure the mindset … will be 'take no prisoners', come down here and do everything we can to go away with a win,'' he said. ''That doesn't mean come down here [to] necessarily entertain the crowd here.''

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