Queensland are fighting to retain Quade Cooper, with the New Zealand Rugby Union hatching plans to poach the boom rookie.
The NZRU’s pursuit of Cooper comes as the Reds secured rising playmaker Ben Lucas and tabled a two-year deal to Clinton Schifcofske in the face of offshore interest in the veteran goalkicker.
Rated the next Mark Ella by former Reds coach Eddie Jones, Cooper is off contract at season’s end and has an array of options, including a possible defection to rugby league.
But more disconcerting for the Reds is a left-field play from the NZRU, who are keen to capitalise on Cooper’s Waikato bloodlines.
The Sunday Mail in Queensland reports that the NZRU have held preliminary talks with Cooper’s management team.
It is understood Super 14 province the Hurricanes head the queue for Cooper’s signature.
The NZRU’s interest comes as a surprise as New Zealand are blessed with quality playmakers, headed by Crusaders maestro Dan Carter.
Reds high-performance manager Ben Whitaker said he was aware of the NZRU threat and vowed to fight hard to secure the 20-year-old Cooper, who moved to Australia as a teenager.
“We’re aware the NZRU have shown interest and possibly spoken to Quade,” Whitaker said.
“It’s a bit of a surprise for a guy who has come through our system to be targeted by what’s regarded as the strongest rugby nation in the world. But we’ve got a lot of players from New Zealand or Pacific Islands playing for us.
“They (the All Blacks) are not short of a 10 (five-eighth), but they are obviously looking to shore up their depth in one of their Super 14 provinces.
“I’m only guessing here but maybe Otago and the Hurricanes are options. The other (Kiwi) provinces are well covered at 10.
“Quade has been good for us. Rugby appeals to him because it’s an intricate game. I’m not putting league down at all, but I think rugby has some aspects that appeal to Quade’s skill.
“I’d be more concerned about other rugby provinces, be it here or overseas, signing Quade than rugby league teams.”Tweet