Queensland ready to run hot - Quade Cooper
February 6, 2014
Quade Cooper has dismissed the loss of Ewen McKenzie, saying Queensland Reds' Super Rugby expectations are now greater in 2014 under Richard Graham.
Graham will debut as the Reds' head coach in the pre-season trial against the defending champion Chiefs in Toowoomba on Saturday, and Test five-eighth Cooper has full faith in the new coach.
McKenzie masterminded Queensland's transformation, taking them from perennial cellar-dwellers to 2011 champions in two seasons with an up-tempo, expansive game plan. He also guided the young Reds outfit to finals finishes in the past two seasons to ascend to the Wallabies coaching role. But Cooper, whose career has blossomed under McKenzie, doesn't see the change of boss as a hindrance to a more experienced and "complete" team.
"I think the expectation is even greater," Cooper said. "We've been thereabouts for the last couple of years and now we want to get back to the top.
"We don't want to ride on the coat-tails of 2011. A lot of people look back to those years and say 'can we revisit that?'. We don't won't to revisit, we want to reinvent ourselves and be a better team than we were then."
Queensland's major problem in 2013 was their inability to score tries, dropping to the third-worst attacking side with fewer than two five-pointers per game. They have also lost strike winger Digby Ioane to French club Stade Francais, but Cooper says the growth of the side will be shown as they evolve in 2014.
"I think we are becoming a more complete team. The more experience we get, myself, Will [Genia] and other guys in key positions are getting even better than we were back then."
Key to improved potency will be the extra dimension gained by giving their inside centre more playmaking responsibility, and Cooper is excited by the "red-hot" pre-season battle between Mike Harris and Ben Tapaui at No.12.
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