Toulon – Australian international Quade Cooper became the first World Cup player to report for duty at European champions Toulon on Tuesday, having negotiated a special contract clause so he can play in the Olympics next year.
The 27-year-old flyhalf apologised to Toulon fans for the extended negotiations that even last week appeared compromised because of doubts about his international future.
“It has been a drawn-out process and I apologise for that,” Cooper told a press conference alongside Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal.
Australia’s selection rules only allow foreign-based players to be chosen if they have 60 caps. Cooper has 58 but made only one World Cup appearance because of the hot form of Bernard Foley.
Cooper said the first version of his Toulon contract did not mention being freed for national games, but it was renegotiated, Boudjellal said, and “if he (Cooper) is called he will be immediately freed.”
Cooper said the talks with Boudjellal had focused on allowing him to go to the Olympics in Rio next August when sevens rugby will be played for the first time. “He knew how excited I was about coming to Toulon and representing my country at the Olympic Games.”
The code-hopping star thanked Toulon and the Australian Rugby Union for the deal.
“So for me the immediate goal is to get out and play well for Toulon. But I am just happy and grateful for the opportunity to go to an Olympic Games which would not have been possible prior to this. Every kid dreams of going to the Olympics.”
He may also have to be freed for some pre-Olympic sevens tournaments.
Cooper, who moves from the Queensland Reds, will join Australian World Cup finalists Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell in the three-time European Cup winners’ multi-national squad.
Ma’a Nonu, a try-scorer for the All Black side that beat Australia in Saturday’s final, will arrive at the French club at the end of November, according to the Toulon president.