Cooper decision about the team: Friend

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Ruling Quade Cooper out of the Rio Olympics was about the team not the player, coach Andy Friend says.

Friend broke the news to an “obviously disappointed” Cooper over the phone earlier this week, after considering the decision for some time.

“I’ve probably been mulling on that for a little bit not through any fault of his own,” he said.

“His contract to Toulon limited his time with the team and anyone sitting on the plane to Rio needs to spend time with us.”

Friend said the decision was ultimately for the greater benefit of the close-knit Sevens team.

“It should be about the team, not about one bloke,” he said.

“Sevens is very much a team game, it’s about the boys doing it for their mates who are there or that can’t be there.

“That’s been the focus and we’ll continue to make it that.”

The Sevens squad is a tight-knit one. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile negotiations with Toulon may have seemed tricky, Friend said he had little to do with those sides of things and in fact appreciated their willingness to release Cooper for the Las Vegas tournament.

Friend said discussion around Cooper’s fate hasn’t been a distraction for the side but it would be good to move on.

“I don’t think it has at all (been a distraction),” he said.

“I’ve been very upfront with the players that I’m not picking a player because he's a named player it’ll be judged on performance.”

Friend said the players would have some sympathy for Cooper.

“They’re very compassionate too,” he said.

“Some of them have relationships with Quade and they’re obviously aware of his hurt and disappointment.

“I’m sure some of them have made contact with him and wished him all the best.”

With improved results since February, and a star turn from playmaker Lewis Holland, Friend said he was more than confident the squad had the ability to crack the Olympic podium without Cooper.

“At the start of the year, I told the players we may definitely be looking at new players but get yourself in the top four, ideally top three and we don’t need to look any further,” he said.

“We’re pretty comfortable - the three sides sit above us at the moment last three outings against South Africa we’ve won two and lost one, which we could’ve won, but lost on the bell.

“Against Fiji, we’ve lost two but beaten them once and one of them again was won on the bell.

“The only team we haven’t beaten is New Zealand, which we do want to do but I feel we have the squad to beat all those teams.”

Cooper is not the only ex-Wallaby to vie for an Olympics spot, with Henry Speight and Nick Cummins joining the squad.

Speight has been training since January, though played the start of the Super Rugby season with the Brumbies, while Cummins came in over a month ago, giving them the valuable time to train with the Sevens team.