Cooper: Oz 'destroying' me
Quade Cooper (Gallo)
Sydney - Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper said he would not play for Australia unless changes were made to the "toxic" environment surrounding the team, which he felt was "destroying" him as a "player and as a person".
The 24-year-old has been sidelined for Australia's last two Rugby Championship Tests in South Africa and Argentina because of a knee problem but sparked huge controversy with tweets and comments made over the weekend.
Offered the chance to clarify his position on Thursday in an interview with Fox Sports, with whom he has a contract, Cooper said he would not play for Australia or sign a new deal with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) unless improvements were made.
"I'm just trying to be the best that I can be and that's why I don't want to be involved in that environment," he said.
"For me to improve as a player and as a person, you want to be in the best possible environment. I feel that environment is destroying me as a person and as a player so I can't do my best to represent myself, my country and my friends to the best of my ability."
Cooper attacked the lack of a dedicated training facility for the Wallabies and reiterated his criticism of the defensive gameplans of coach Robbie Deans.
"If you are going to pick an attacking player, especially at 10, you sort of want to work on playing attacking rugby," he added.
New Zealand-born Cooper initially alluded to his criticisms in two tweets, now erased from his feed @quadecooper.
In a brief statement on Thursday, the ARU said it had written to Cooper "in relation to social media comments" but had "no intention of conducting those discussions with Quade in the public arena".
At his best a mercurial talent whose unpredictability can unpick the game's increasingly tight defences, Cooper helped the Reds to their first Super Rugby title and Australia to a first Tri-nations title in a decade last year.
He had less success at last year's World Cup in New Zealand, where he was vilified as the host country's "public enemy number one" and ended the tournament with a serious knee injury.
Cooper has signed a new three-year contract with the Reds but it will not be ratified until a Wallabies deal is completed. His current deal runs out at the end of the year.
"I want to play for the Reds, but the next component is out of my hands," he said.
"If there's no change to the current environment, I don't what I'll have to do then ...
"What I mean by the environment being toxic is that you expect it to be like a family environment," he added. "You want to have a happy environment, more so like we do at the Reds."
Cooper said the issue had come to a head after Australia's narrow 23-19 victory over Argentina on the Gold Coast two weeks ago, where the Wallabies had to overcome a 13-point deficit in the last quarter.
"We won the game (but) the way it was spoken about by officials and stuff it was like it was a loss," he said.
"You don't need that as a player and as an environment, you want to walk off the field and believe that you have the confidence of the coaches and the players."
Queensland Rugby chief Jim Carmichael was moved to release a public statement on Wednesday in an attempt to ease the fears of the province's fans.
"Let me reassure you that Quade has no interest in leaving the Reds," it read. "He... has reaffirmed his commitment to our organisation on several occasions, and again as late as yesterday afternoon."
Cooper's recent comments along with another saying he wanted to play with Sonny Bill Williams - the All Black who has been linked with rugby league's Sydney Roosters - has further fuelled rumours that Cooper might be preparing to quit the code.
"I want to play with Sonny, if nothing is changed and my hand is forced... it's not about money, it's about being happy in what I'm doing," he said.