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Cooper to fight for Wallaby No.10: Deans
Ben Horne
13:01 AEST Sun Jun 24 2012

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans issued a stern warning to Quade Cooper and other injured stars that they can't expect to walk straight back into the starting side for August's Rugby Championship.

Stand-in five-eighth Berrick Barnes starred in Australia's 3-0 whitewash of Wales with two man-of-the-match performances and Deans admits Cooper has his work cut out to win back the No.10 jersey.

Cooper was told by Wallaby medical staff before the June Tests to get more fitness into the knee he ruptured in last year's World Cup semi-final, however he's expected back on the field for Queensland's Super Rugby clash against Melbourne on Friday night.

Deans welcomed the likely headache for the chief playmaker position and hopes James O'Connor, Drew Mitchell, Joe Tomane and even Lachie Turner can also strengthen the Wallabies heading into the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener against the All Blacks on August 18.

"I hope so," said Deans of the selection dilemma between Cooper and Barnes.

"That's fantastic. It's great. It's optimal.

"When (Cooper) left camp there was a series of benchmarks he had to achieve in order to return to play. I understand he's ticked some of them, I don't know if he's ticked all of them yet.

"The next month will be key for them (injured players) no doubt.

"The good thing is no one will be able to amble back into the group now.

"They're not waiting until they're called to be selected before they get serious about it, they're going to have to actually convince people that they're ready to go prior to re-entry."

Adam Ashley-Cooper said his NSW teammate Barnes would thrive on the chance to battle it out with Cooper for the No.10 jersey and believes Australia can receive a major boost from any in-house showdown.

"Absolutely you want to have that competition for spots because it only brings out the best in individuals when we've got all that talent competing for the one spot at training.

"You're not only challenging yourself you're challenging the blokes around you, and that's how we're going to become No.1 in the world," said Ashley-Cooper.

"He's a good director and he's well organised but the best thing about Barnsey is he's an absolute competitor. He just loves the contest and he'll never give up."

Deans was encouraged by the Wallabies ability to win tight matches against Wales, despite the host of stars sitting on the sidelines.

Kurtley Beale made his return in Saturday's 20-19 win at Allianz Stadium and will be better for the run, while Mitchell and Turner trained with the Wallabies in Sydney in the lead-up and will add depth in the outside backs.

O'Connor has recovered from liver damage but is still troubled by a hamstring injury as he fights to prove his fitness for the Rebels.

"I hope they're all available to us because they do have the ability to unlock sides," said Deans.

"To beat teams like the All Blacks and South Africa you have to be able to do that.

"To add that X-factor back into the group is good, because there's been some good solidity around the rest of the group."