Planet Rugby

ARU must change Rio policy - Cooper

25th January 2014 12:23

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Quade Cooper v Wales

Keen on Sevens: Quade Cooper

Reds and Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper wants the Australian Rugby Union to change the selection criteria for their Sevens squad at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Cooper said the Olympics would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many rugby players to participate in such a prestigous event and it should never be tarred by off-field politics.

Although New Zealand has indicated that all rugby players will be considered for inclusion in their squad for the Olympics, Australia have a different policy which will guarantee that players like Cooper, Israel Folau, Matt Giteau and Kurtley Beale will miss the Games.

The ARU insists that only players who committ themselves to a full season with the Australian Sevens squad, which is coached by dual international Michael O'Connor, will be eilgible to represent their country at the Olympics.

Cooper said the initial excitment at the announcement of rugby's inclusion in the Games has now been replaced by confusion and frustration among Australia's top players.

"The Olympic Games is something which goes beyond a lot of the rules and guidelines which you see in place across the different professional sporting codes and competitions," he told the Australian.

"It is a real privilege rugby has been afforded and I think it is wrong to have any professional code using that privilege to force athletes into playing in one particular place.

"If we are serious about putting our best team on the park . . . we need to be looking at Aussie players, no matter where they are playing."

The New Zealand Rugby Union has used the Olympics as carrot to lure players like Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall from rugby league but Cooper revealed he has heard nothing regarding the possibility of being part of Australia's squad in Rio.

His speed, agility and footwork would appear to suit Sevens perfectly and Cooper believes several of his Wallaby team-mates would add value if they are given the opportunity to play in the shortened version of the game.

"I remember the last time I played Sevens was with the Reds when I was 20 or 21, during pre-season training there was a tournament on the Gold Coast," he added.

"Will Genia was out of this world. Seriously, you cannot have a Sevens team which is representing Australia without him. The same goes for Izzy Folau and Digby (Ioane), Kurtley Beale and even Michael Hooper.

"These guys are among the best athletes, not just in this country, but in world rugby and they deserve the right to at least be considered for a spot in that side.

"Put those names together in a team and not only would you have a team which would take some beating but you'd have a team which people would get behind and support."