Quade Cooper’s Olympic dream is over after being cut adrift for failing to make a quick enough transition to rugby sevens.
Australian coach Andy Friend made the shock early call on Thursday – three months before the Rio Games – to dump France-based Cooper from his plans.
Friend had hoped to have the Wallabies showman on board for the last two world series tournaments in Paris and London this month as a final audition for Olympic selection.
But the delay in an expected release from his French club Toulon, on top of Cooper’s lack of time to gel with his sevens’ teammates and adapt to high-octane game, seemingly forced the coach’s hand.
“There’s no doubt Quade is a quality player but, put simply, we just haven’t had the opportunity to work with him as much as we would have liked over the past five months,” he said.
“Each day I have a group of 20-plus players working on different structures and patterns of play and I don’t think we would have got the very best out of Quade had we just thrown him into a tournament with limited preparation, particularly for an event as momentous as the Olympics.
“As many players have found out throughout this season’s world series, it is no easy task to transition from 15s to the sevens form of the game.”
Unlike close friend Sonny Bill Williams, who sacrificed his entire Super Rugby and Test season to play with New Zealand, Cooper was only released by Toulon for three tournaments.
His expected debut in Sydney in February was bungled when Toulon delayed his return to Australia by a week and the 27-year-old watched on as a frustrated spectator.
Cooper turned out in tournaments in Las Vegas and Vancouver in March but struggled to shine, while regular playmaker Lewis Holland took his game to a new level to make himself the pivotal figure many hoped Cooper could be.
The New Zealand-born five-eighth has also had passport dramas with the Australian Rugby union needing to lodge citizenship documentation with the immigration department.
Cooper’s manager, Khoder Nasser, believes the passport problems have been an even bigger issue as it required him to spend more time in Australia than his French contract allowed.
“That’s been a massive issue,” Nasser told AAP.
An ARU spokesman denied this was the main reason and Friend insisted he already had the cattle to medal at Rio.
“I have complete faith in the players we currently have in the sevens program and their ability to perform on the big stage,” he said.
“Although we are still a few months out from the Games, I think it offers the fairest outcome for everyone by making the call now.”