James Slipper deserves a second chance in rugby, Australian Super Rugby Selection coach John Manenti says.
Slipper will return from a two-month suspension for two positive drug tests when he runs out with the Australian Super Rugby selection on Friday night against the Wallabies in a pre-Bledisloe trial at Leichhardt Oval.
The 29-year-old tested positive to cocaine twice in the space of three months, triggering an automatic two-month suspension and $27,500 fine in May.
Slipper apologised at the time, saying he’d been struggling with depression after news of his mother’s illness and his own repeated injury setbacks.
Manenti said giving Slipper a chance to return to rugby was a simple decision.
“Over the years there's been plenty of people that have made mistakes and playing sport’s what they do, it's what they go to growing up and it's what made them become the person they were,” he said.
“It's great to say, 'let's just go back to basics' and do what you're doing.
“Whether it's a Bledisloe Cup match or this match or a club match, he just wants to play footy again and get around what he loves and what he's been doing.
“It's great to give him an opportunity to redeem (himself), if that's the word, or to move forward, let’s say, beyond his problems that he's had.”
Manenti is yet to speak to Slipper in person but said the loosehead prop was eager to be back in action.
“We haven't had a chance to sit down yet. it sort of came through our selection system,” he said.
“He's available, he's served his time up there, so I've had a brief message with him, he was keen to play and really excited about it and Adrian Thompson the manager's spoken to him and he's really pleased to be able to help the Wallabies and help us to be a better team.
“Great opportunity for him to put all that behind him and start playing footy.”
Putting aside his recent controversy, Manenti said Slipper’s wealth of Test experience would be a valuable addition to the side.
“He's played a hell of a lot of games for the Wallabies and the Reds and with this young group he's been invaluable,” he said.
“(He brings) knowledge around the dressing room, on the field and composure at key times when we're going to be hustled and bustled by guys that are playing for Wallaby jerseys.”
Slipper’s Super Rugby future is unclear with Reds coach Brad Thorn unlikely to recall him to the team anytime soon.
The prop will be named in Queensland Country’s NRC squad when it is unveiled on Wednesday but it will be up to the team’s coach to determine whether he plays.
Slipper’s ban ended last week, making him eligible for club rugby with Bond University in the final regular season round but he did not feature in that match.
Fellow out-of-favour Reds Quade Cooper and Karmichael Hunt were both unavailable for the Super Rugby Selection, with Queensland’s Souths club involved in this weekend’s Premier Rugby finals.
Slipper is one of four capped Wallabies in the Australian Super Rugby Selection to face the Wallabies in their pre-Bledisloe trial on Friday night.
The Wallabies will take on an Australian Super Rugby Selection on Friday night, kicking off at 6:45pm AEST, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au. Free entry for any spectators.