Newly appointed Australian rugby sevens coach Andy Friend is making no secret of his interest in having Wallabies star Quade Cooper on deck for the Rio Olympics.
But integrating Cooper into Australia’s program and having the France-based playmaker commit to a 10-week training block before the August Games is the conundrum.
Friend will join the team during round three of the Sevens World Series in Wellington later this month after ending a three-season stint coaching Suntory Sungoliath in the Japanese Top League.
The former Brumbies Super Rugby mentor believes seven months is ample time to build an Olympic medal-winning outfit.
“It might look like I’ve been rushed in but I’ve been in extensive contact with the ARU and I’m on top of things at present,” Friend said.
“The team’s in a very healthy position and I see my role as building on this.”
Cooper has been earmarked to make his international sevens debut in either Wellington or round four of the World Series in Sydney on February 6-7.
Friend has no doubt the 58-Test ace has what it takes to make a major impact in the high-octane, helter-skelter sevens rugby.
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“What I know about Quade is when he’s playing 15 on 15, he finds space so if he plays seven on seven, it’s going to be pretty special,” he said.
“He has the rugby nous and the rugby ability to make a big difference on a sevens field.”
The ARU is poised to announce Cooper and one other high-profile Wallaby as marquee additions to the sevens program any day now and Friend says the 15-a-side stars will need to play at least two of the remaining eight World Series rounds to be considered for Rio.
But they would then need to take part in a 10-week training block immediately before the Olympics.
“It’s not just about playing these two or so tournaments and jumping on a plane to Rio. That wouldn’t work,” Friend said. “There’s a significant commitment involved.”
Friend’s appointment ends the ARU’s long search prompted by Welshman Geraint Jones’ shock resignation last August.
Australian women’s team coach Tim Walsh guided the side through its successful Olympic qualifying campaign in November before Scott Bowen assumed the caretaker coach’s role for the first two rounds of the World Series last month.