WALLABIES five-eighth Quade Cooper says the national team is ‘‘destroying’’ him, and that he would not play for Australia if he were picked in the team today.
In an extraordinary few moments live on pay-television last night, the injured playmaker said he stood by his comments last week that the Wallabies environment was ‘‘toxic’’.
‘‘I’m just striving to be the best that I can be, and that’s why I said I didn’t want to be involved in that kind of environment,’’ Cooper told Fox Sports’ The Rugby Club.
‘‘For me to continue to improve as a player and as a person you want to be in the best possible environment, and I feel that that environment is destroying me as a person and as a player, so that I can’t do the best that I can do to represent my country and my family and my friends, to the best of my ability.’’
When asked if he would play for the Wallabies if he were picked in the side this weekend, Cooper said he would not.
‘‘No, like I said, it’s the environment there at the moment is one that I don’t feel comfortable in, and if I don’t feel comfortable and if I don’t feel that I can give 100 per cent for my country and that yellow jersey, that’s a very big problem,’’ he said.
The Reds five-eighth’s comments follow criticisms he made on Twitter last week against national coach Robbie Deans and the culture in the Wallabies squad.
Cooper said the tipping point for him was the lead-in and aftermath of the Wallabies’ fightback win over Argentina on the Gold Coast two weeks ago.
The 24-year-old had an error-ridden first half in that match but improved to show flashes of former flair in the final stanza.
‘‘Everything leading into that game showed out on the field, not only the way that I played as an individual but as the team played, [it was] just a very unhappy environment,’’ he said.
‘‘We won the game, and it felt like we lost the game, and the way that it was spoken about from officials and stuff, it was basically a loss. You don’t need that as a player in that environment. You want to walk off the field, whether you win by the smallest of margins, you want to have a happy dressing room, know that you’ve won the game, give confidence to your players and make sure you have the belief and confidence from your coaches and your peers to move onto next week.’’
The ARU broke its silence yesterday to say, in a three-line written statement, that the union had emailed Cooper but would not be making any public statement.
Cooper said the stalled contract negotiations with the ARU had no influence on his decision to speak publicly.
‘‘Money has nothing to do with it, and if money had anything to do with it, I definitely wouldn’t be speaking out,’’ he said.
The stalemate could prompt Cooper to walk away from Australian rugby altogether, despite the fact he signed a three-year contract with the Reds earlier this year.
‘‘I’m happy [in Queensland] ... I’d love to stay there for the next three years, but [it’s] a tripartite contract [between Cooper, the Reds and the ARU] and the ARU have to register it, and if there’s no change in the current environment then I don’t know what I’ll have to do past there,’’ Cooper said.
He also bemoaned the absence of an adequately equipped national training facility, and said the Wallabies lacked the ‘‘family’’ atmosphere he enjoyed at the Reds.
‘‘Earlier this year we had a three-week camp where we didn’t really have the best facilities for injury prevention, injury management, to get the best out of us as a playing group,’’ Cooper said.
The comments were not aimed personally at Deans, he said, later denying speculation he was involved in a behind-the-scenes push to oust Deans from the head coaching role, paving the way for Reds coach Ewen McKenzie to take over.