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Cooper fears threat of Lions 'nuisance' Sam; CLASH OF CAPTAINS AS AUSSIE LOOKS TO WIN WALLABIES SPOT.

Byline: DELME PARFITT with the Lions Down Under delme.parfitt@walesonline.co.uk

AUSTRALIAN glamour boy Quade Cooper fears Sam Warburton could scupper his chances of making the Wallabies Test side to face the Lions. Cooper will skipper the Queensland Reds against the Lions at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium today, with all the intrigue surrounding whether he can deliver a performance that will convince coach Robbie Deans to bring him back into the Wallaby fold after controversially omitting him from the original training squad.

But his captaincy counterpart Warburton also has it all to prove on his return from a knee injury in what is the Wales star's first outing of the tour.

Cooper revealed his admiration for Warburton as the Lions gear up for what will be their sternest examination thus far, describing him as a "nuisance" to play against.

"He's a fine player, and to think that he's the same age as me," said Cooper.

"I always thought he was older, it seems like he has been around a long time now.

"It just shows the commitment he has to rugby. He is always a nuisance and very tough to play against.

"Being a five-eighth and playing against him, he's always popping up in places where you don't want him to pop up, so he'll be difficult o play against."

Asked if Australia's Indian sign over Wales - they've beaten them the last eight times they've met one another - gave him an edge over his counterpart today, Cooper said: "Wherever we can find an edge we will find it whether it is statistics or whatever, we'll look for anything we can to get the upper hand.

"In terms of having an edge over him, well the Lions have four teams moulded together and great players from every country."

The Lions have racked up 16 tries in two routs of the Barbarians and Western Force, but pessimists have claimed the poor standard of the opposition has rendered those victories fool's gold.

Cooper was diplomatic in his assessment of Warren Gatland's men so far, saying: "They have been impressive. They've found some great combinations after only two games.

"The opposition though probably hasn't been what they would have wanted and we're now looking to put in a great performance.

"We've looked at how we can exploit the Lions. They bring a lot of physicality but it is a tough ask to marry individuals with different egos, personalities and styles of play from four different countries.

"So they have a tough task as well. I'm just excited about playing against them, not many people get the opportunity.

"I'm representing my state and the country in the first Lions game in Queensland for a long time.

"I'd still call this business end of the tour for the guys who are playing."

While the focus will be on whether Cooper can do enough to convince Deans he is ready to face the Lions on Test duty, he played down the notion that he is on trial.

"You can only deal with what is in front of you, you can't think about what may or may not happen," he said.

"I just want to enjoy this. I've seen a lot of players grow under the guidance of Ewan, and to get the responsibility of leading the team is a great honour and privilege.

"I'm excited, especially as we're at home in front of a full house where there will be lots of Lions and Reds supporters.

"If you're thinking about other things it takes away from the importance of this game.

"If that happens I won't be able to do the Reds' jersey justice.

"For me it's about doing all I can for the team I'm involved with.

"You always want to be picked for any team, you just go out there to do the best you can each time.

"I will keep working on the things I need to improve and if > things happen because of it then so be it. "If not, then it's not like I'm not going to be a happy person anymore." Western Force were criticised for devaluing the Lions match by sending out an under- strength side, but Cooper left nobody in any doubt what today means to him. He explained: "The way we've prepared I hope this game will live up to what the Super Rugby Grand Final was like (the Reds beat the Crusaders in 2011). "Right now that was one of the most amazing rugby games I've ever been a part of in terms of the build-up, the outcome and the state being seen as a great rugby powerhouse. "Watching the Lions in 2001 we were on our way up north for a rugby carnival and I was playing for Brisbane South Under-14s. "We were watching it on the bus and as a young kid I hadn't really heard much about it. "But looking at the stadium I remember seeing how many red jerseys there were in the stands.

I wondered then if I would ever play professional rugby or get a chance" to play against. the Lions. "Sitting here now with that opportunity makes you realise how far you've come." Reds coach Ewan McKenzie echoed Cooper's enthusiasm, saying: "Look back in history and there's not many teams that beat the Lions. "So you can put yourself in pretty unique company if you can engineer a result. "We do our finest work here, we have a good success rate and do better the bigger the crowd and opponent. "I haven't been involved with Queensland once where we have gone out to keep the score down or come second. "We recognise the strength of the Lions and that we haven't seen all their tricks yet. "But we'll put all our efforts into trying to win this game. "As a coach, I look for one-off opportunities when you can do something special. "The Lions are here only once every 12 years so there's a fantastic piece of history to be grabbed. "We never hear the end of Munster beating the All Blacks and the excitement of sport is about things happening that aren't supposed to happen. "There's nothing I've read this week that doesn't tell me we are supposed to lose this game, but we're excited by the prospect of proving people wrong."

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Reds captain Quade Cooper has described his Lions counterpart Sam Warburton as a 'nuisance'
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 8, 2013
Words:1070
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