Quade Cooper in line to play in Hong Kong with new Toulon agreement
Australian fly-half renegotiates contract allowing him to be part of Australia's Olympic campaign, including lead-up events such as Hong Kong Sevens
Australian fly-half Quade Cooper could be included in the Wallabies squad for next year's Hong Kong Sevens after his new club side, Toulon, agreed to release him for the Rio Olympic Games.
Cooper, back-up to Bernard Foley at the Rugby World Cup in England, has renegotiated his contract with the French club, inserting a clause that allows him to take part in Australia's Olympic campaign. This includes lead-up tournaments, of which the Hong Kong Sevens is the most high profile.
A spokesman for the Australian Rugby Union said Tuesday that it will be talking to Cooper about his availability for the Olympics and other sevens tournaments.
"It is a positive sign that Toulon have indicated they are prepared to release Quade for any potential involvement in the Olympic Games in 2016," said the spokesman. "That said, our discussions with Quade have been on hold during the Rugby World Cup and we will look to continue these in the coming weeks.
"Our Qantas Australian Men's Sevens team will continue their Olympic qualification campaign when they head to New Zealand next week for the Oceania regional qualifier."
Cooper played one pool game for Australia at the World Cup with Foley in hot form. The part-time boxer, 27, apologised to Toulon fans for the long talks that even last week appeared compromised because of doubts about his international future.
"It has been a drawn-out process and I apologise for that," Cooper said in a press conference alongside Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal.
Cooper said the first version of his Toulon contract did not mention being freed for national games, but it was renegotiated and Boudjellal said: "If he [Cooper] is called, he will be immediately freed."
Cooper said the talks with Boudjellal had focused on allowing him to go to the Olympics in Rio next August when sevens rugby will be played for the first time. "He knew how excited I was about coming to Toulon and representing my country at the Olympic Games," Cooper said.
"So for me the immediate goal is to get out and play well for Toulon. But I am just happy and grateful for the opportunity to go to an Olympic Games, which would not have been possible prior to this."