Quade Cooper to come under microscope
Fly-half backed to impress for Reds after his omission from preliminary Wallabies squad
Quade Cooper's front-line defence will be under scrutiny for the Queensland Reds in this weekend's Super Rugby after his omission from the Wallabies' preliminary squad for next month's series against the British and Irish Lions.
His scrum-base partner, Wallaby Will Genia, is backing Cooper to force his way back when the last six players are added to the final squad, starting with the Reds match against the Western Stormers in Cape Town tomorrow.
"I absolutely back him to get there. He has been playing exceptionally well for us thus far this season," Genia said. "They have named a few things they want him to work on and I think he is mature enough to understand that and go away and work on those things."
The Waikato Chiefs also face a thorough examination of their Super 15 title defence against the Canterbury Crusaders, as the ACT Brumbies and Northern Bulls face tricky away matches this weekend.
The Chiefs leapfrogged the Brumbies to the top of the standings last weekend with their fourth straight win, but face a stern challenge today from seven-time champions the Crusaders, on a roll after four consecutive victories.
Defeat for the Chiefs will cost them the championship lead if the Bulls win their South African derby against the Coastal Sharks in Durban or the Brumbies beat the Blues in Auckland after back-to-back losses.
The Chiefs have beaten the Crusaders only four times in their last 17 encounters and are preparing for another monumental battle.
"They [Crusaders] still are the benchmark and to be honest it's an easy game to get up for mentally," Chiefs openside flanker Tanerau Latimer said. The Sharks, adrift in third place in the South African conference, have lost five of their last seven games against the Bulls, who lead the Central Cheetahs by six points in the conference and are second overall.
Jake White's Brumbies will be looking to avoid a third straight loss while John Kirwan's Blues must win to keep in touch with the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference in tomorrow's game at Eden Park.
In other games, the Rebels tackle the NSW Waratahs in Melbourne, the Force host the Otago Highlanders in Perth and the Southern Kings meet the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth, while the Wellington Hurricanes have a bye.