Back door open for Cooper & Beale

Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:05
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Wallaby coach Robbie Deans said Friday the door was not closed on Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale.

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans said Friday the door was not closed on Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale, despite their omission from a preliminary 30-man Wallabies camp for this year's British and Irish Lions series.

Instead of the troubled pair, Deans named James O'Connor, Berrick Barnes and untried Brumby Christian Lealiifano for the Wallabies' playmaking role.

The omissions come after Reds playmaker Cooper was fined AU$60,000 (US$63,100) and banned for three games last October for bringing the game into disrepute.

Beale was stood down indefinitely following off-field trouble with Rebels teammate Cooper Vuna in an alcohol-fuelled brawl on the team bus in South Africa.

Deans has invited seven uncapped players, including former Rugby League Test back Israel Folau, to this weekend's two-day camp in Sydney.

Folau has been recognised for his fine form with the Waratahs in the Super Rugby competition since switching to Union from League via Aussie Rules.

Deans said he had been in contact with Cooper and Beale and advised them they along with Test regulars Sekope Kepu, Drew Mitchell and Nick Phipps still had time to press for selection against the touring Lions.

"Kurtley's obviously not playing at the moment. He's sought help, which is great, so he's going through a counselling process," Deans told reporters in reference to Beale's alcohol issues.

"He's got to go through that first and that's got to run its course and, if and when he becomes available, we'd consider it then.

"He'd return to the Rebels and play so we'd obviously observe that with interest."

Deans insisted that Cooper was not being further punished for his criticism last year of the Wallabies' so-called "toxic" culture.

The 25-year-old made headlines when he lashed out on social media at the environment within the national squad and the defensive style of the coach.

"There's something like eight rounds to go before we gather for the Lions tour," Deans said.

"So there's still a lot of rugby to be played, a lot of water to go under the bridge and a lot of opportunity for everyone to press their claims."

Deans will select his top 25 players for the Lions series on May 19.

A further six players will be added as soon as Super Rugby breaks for the June Tests, with the final Wallabies squad of 31 for the Lions series to be unveiled on June 11.

The opening game of the three-Test series against the Lions takes place in Brisbane on June 22.

The Australian Rugby Union said although it is not an official Wallabies squad, the selection rewards those who have shown strong form in this year's Super 15 series.

Deans said the gathering will allow the players to complete the team's pre-Lions commercial obligations, with some specific rugby-related planning also involved.

AFP

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