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Quade Cooper to miss Wallabies camp
April 11, 2013
Queensland's Quade Cooper (l) runs past Elliot Dixon of the Highlanders, Queensland Reds v Highlanders, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, March  29, 2013
Quade Cooper has shown improved form since the return of Will Genia © Getty Images
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Wallabies coach Robbie Deans appears set to overlook Quade Cooper for the British & Irish Lions series, with James O'Connor seemingly favoured to play at five-eighth.

Cooper still looks to be on the outer with Deans as the controversial playmaker will not be among a 30-man Wallabies squad to gather for a two-day administration camp in Sydney on Sunday. Even with incumbent Kurtley Beale out of the picture due to his indefinite suspension over alcohol issues, Cooper will stay in Brisbane as other No. 10 contenders meet with Deans and the rest of the extended squad. Cooper upset Deans and teammates last season with claims of a "toxic" Wallabies environment, but the 38-Test five-eighth's omission from the camp remains a surprise.

Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones last week rated Cooper's electric attacking game and X-factor as the best No. 10 option to beat the Lions, while backline great Tim Horan has praised the player's recent form. Deans said earlier this season that Cooper would begin the year with a clean slate, but he also underlined that he would select players on whom teammates could rely under pressure.

Cooper, 24, endured a mixed start to the 2013 season, but he has bounced back to form with Queensland Reds after the return of Wallabies half-back Will Genia from a knee reconstruction. Cooper confirmed to AAP on Wednesday that he had not been invited to the Sydney camp, but he said that he was unfazed by the omission and was focused on continuing his positive progress with the Reds.

Cooper isn't the only regular Wallabies player to miss the last of three logistics camps held during the Super Rugby season, as Melbourne Rebels scrum-half Nick Phipps has been usurped by Brumbies No. 9 Nic White as Genia's back-up.

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With Beale currently out of the picture and injury-plagued New South Wales Waratahs playmaker Berrick Barnes sidelined, O'Connor seems set to regain the No. 10 jersey he wore with distinction in the 2011 end-of-year tour. Uncapped Brumbies playmaker Christian Lealiifano is considered to sit next behind O'Connor in the pecking order, but he has played the bulk of 2013 at inside centre.

Despite the Waratahs' rocky start to 2013, they still boast most of the players - including a full forward pack - currently among the country's top 30.

Deans will name his initial 25-man squad for the three-Test Lions series on June 2, while five more players will be added after the next weekend's round of Super Rugby matches.

Cooper and others outside the current 30 can work their way into Test squad over the next eight rounds of Super Rugby, and the Queensland playmaker has a prime chance to show his worth against the defending champions, the Chiefs, on Saturday.

Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie's decision to position Cooper at fullback in defence has not helped the player's Wallabies' cause, but the coach has stressed the decision is best for the Reds' kick-return attack rather than an indictment on the player's tackling.

"People say he's been up and down; I think he's been getting better every week," McKenzie said of Cooper on Wednesday morning. "I think he's been more mature this year. There's no doubt the partnership he's got with Will is a great partnership and you get confidence out of that."

The players to assemble in Sydney

Jesse Mogg (Brumbies), Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds), Joe Tomane (Brumbies), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds), Pat McCabe (Brumbies), Christian Leali'ifano (Brumbies), Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs), James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Nic White (Brumbies), Will Genia (Queensland Reds), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs), Fotu Auelua (Brumbies), Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds), Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs), Scott Higginbotham (Melbourne Rebels), Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs), Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs), Dan Palmer (Brumbies), James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Scott Sio (Brumbies), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs).

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