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The rugby community has thrown its support behind Quade Cooper after the Wallabies star's heartbreaking news that could effectively spell an end to his Australian rugby career.
Cooper's return to the Wallabies fold has been one of the great modern comeback stories, and the five-eighth has played an integral part in an Aussie rugby renaissance that's seen the national side win five straight Tests in the same year for the first time since 2015.
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The 33-year-old was desperately hoping to help the Wallabies extend that run on their upcoming spring Tour, with matches against Scotland, England and Wales to finish off the year.
However, the brutal reality for the veteran fly-half is that he is contracted to Japanese club, Hanazono Kintetsu Liners, whose pre-season schedule clashes with the spring Tour calendar.
Cooper's news came after star centre Kerevi and fellow Suntory Sungoliath teammate Sean McMahon also opted to remain in Japan.
In a heartbreaking Instagram post, Cooper says the situation has left him hurting but hoped it wasn't the end of his Australian rugby journey.
"My growth as a man is being able to admit I'm hurt," Cooper posted on Instagram.
"It hurts that I won't be on tour to Europe with my teammates, especially after experiencing so much growth and overcoming challenges each week.
"I'm hurt that I couldn't please everyone and keep both my employer and country happy.
"But although I am hurting now, the happiness I feel from my journey to this point far outweighs the hurt.
"... This journey has no finish line and my efforts to continue to walk this path will not change... What's meant to be will be."
While Cooper had the blessing of his club to travel, he felt he owed it to them to commit to pre-season training given they signed him in the belief his international career was over.
An injury on tour would have also put his lucrative contract at risk.
Cooper found overwhelming support on social media, where fans celebrated his career in Australian rugby and lamented the fact he had to choose club over country.
This is why a global calendar is badly needed @WorldRugby internationals, the pinnacle of the game, should never suffer because of club commitments
— red red rev (@red_ed_A) October 28, 2021
So good to see you running around in the green and gold again, hopefully the body holds up into the next WC!
Either way, great to see your development as a man and a player.
Nothin but love from the Australian public.
— The Sensible Center (@CenterSensible) October 28, 2021
This speaks volumes of Wallabies tour mess:
Quade Cooper: "It hurts that I won't be on tour to Europe ... I'm hurt I couldn't please everyone and keep both my employer and country happy."
Samu Kerevi: "Mostly heart broken ... Don't ever question my love for it (jersey)"
— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) October 28, 2021
Gutted not to see you play over here. It’s been an honour & joy to see you back in the wallabies shirt. And yes to being open about feeling vulnerable. All the best in your upcoming season. ❤️
— Shahzad (@ShaZ___01) October 28, 2021
It’s things like these that us South Africans can’t take about World Rugby. I mean how can a club stop a national player? World rugby can learn from @Fifa
— sobantu ntlokwana (@sobantuntlokwan) October 28, 2021
Three Wallabies choose club over country
Cooper's return sparked a five-match winning run for the Wallabies, but the 33-year-old's hopes of appearing for Australia at the 2023 World Cup are now in the balance.
Kerevi, who like Cooper had been a major factor in the side's improved form, admitted as much in a similarly emotional post.
"That time may be now and if it is I will forever be grateful to have played a part in the Wallaby journey," he said.
Clearly frustrated by the situation, Kerevi made it clear he remained a passionate Wallaby.
"Don't ever question my love for it," he wrote.
"I've felt angry, sad, confused, betrayed but mostly heart broken.
"I'm doing my best to let God take control instead of letting my emotions take over ... God has a way of bringing out the truth one way or the other, he has his way of humbling us all."
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie on Thursday couldn't answer if it spelt the end of the trio's representative careers.
Rennie has called up UK-based veteran Kurtley Beale and also young playmaker Noah Lolesio to join the tour from Australia.
"He (Cooper) wants to be here, he wants to be a Wallaby, but he feels loyalty to his club. In the end he's made a decision that he feels is the right one," Rennie said.
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