ARU ‘Utterly Confused’ by Cooper’s Latest Comments, O’Neill Says

The Australian Rugby Union said it’s baffled by comments made by Quade Cooper in a television interview that escalated the injured fly-half’s criticism of the national team.

Cooper, who complained of a “toxic” environment within the Wallabies setup last weekend, told Fox Sports last night that problems include a lack of appropriate facilities for the squad to prepare for Test matches. He said he’s unlikely to play for Australia again unless his concerns are addressed.

“Much of what was said has left us utterly confused,” ARU Chief Executive Officer John O’Neill said today in a statement. “He talks of an unhappy environment without elaborating. He uses the word toxic, an extremely strong descriptor. However, when pressed on the issues he turned to facilities and the Wallabies not having a dedicated place to train. We’ve never had these concerns raised previously.”

Cooper’s interview took place about five hours after the ARU, which governs the sport in Australia, said it had written to him regarding his initial criticisms. New Zealand-born Cooper also said on Twitter at the weekend that the Wallabies coaches didn’t allow him to play in the attacking style he wanted.

The 24-year-old, who’s played 38 Tests for Australia, is currently sidelined because of a knee injury that requires clean-up surgery. The Wallabies face South Africa tomorrow in the fifth round of the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship.

‘Destroying Me’

During last night’s interview, Cooper said the Wallabies environment was “destroying me as a person and as a player,” and that he was unable to perform at his best. He denied that his comments were designed to create rifts in the teams.

“My hope and intent is that things are fixed from this point on and makes it a better environment for people moving forward whether I’m involved or not,” Cooper said last night.

O’Neill said that Cooper’s future in rugby in Australia rests with the player. Cooper has agreed a three-year contract with the Queensland Reds for the next three Super Rugby seasons, though must also sign an ARU contract, which stipulates his availability for the national team.

“Most disturbingly, he was firm about not playing for the Wallabies unless things change,” O’Neill said. “If that is how he feels, then that is his choice. The reality is a decision on whether or not he stays in Australian rugby has to this point rested with him since he received an ARU offer in early July.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at dbaynes@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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