Vodacom Super Rugby
Cooper to start against Lions
Sydney - Australian playmaker Quade Cooper will start his first game in nearly seven months on Saturday after major knee surgery, opening the door for a possible return to the Wallabies for their Wales series.
Cooper, 24, limped out of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last October after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, which led to a knee reconstruction that has sidelined him since.
But the mercurial flyhalf was named on Wednesday to start for the Reds in their Super Rugby clash with the struggling Lions in Brisbane, having missed the opening 12 rounds.
Cooper came under intense scrutiny at the World Cup and was regularly booed while playing in his native New Zealand, where he was cast as a villain for coming to blows with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw ahead of the tournament.
But with that and his injury now behind him, he is raring to go.
"It has been a long six-plus months on the sideline and I know I've done everything I can to tick all the boxes during my rehab and have been as diligent as possible to ensure I am ready to return," Cooper said.
"Everything which could be done has been done and the rest is now out of my hands.
"I'll be going out on Saturday knowing I've done everything within my power to be prepared both physically and mentally and it's now about going out and doing the best that I can for the team."
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the team would be lifted by Cooper's presence.
"There's no denying Quade has enormous x-factor but for him this match is about getting back out on the field and getting comfortable again within the match-day environment," McKenzie said.
"Everyone is excited to see him back out there, but it's important we manage him the right way during this period."
How Cooper fares will be closely watched by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans with Australia playing Six Nations champions Wales in a three-Test series which begins on June 9.
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane,
10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Jake Schatz,
5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg
Substitutes: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Eddie
Quirk, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Chris F'sautia, 22 Luke Morahan