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Quade boxes on but Reds keep hope
By Jim Morton
18:12 AEST Mon Nov 26 2012

The Queensland Reds still remain confident of brokering an 11th-hour resolution to have Quade Cooper return to rugby a week after getting in the boxing ring on February 8.

Relations between Cooper and the Australian Rugby Union appear to have disintegrated to the point of no return with agent Khoder Nasser revealing "a total communication breakdown" between the two parties.

The controversial Wallabies playmaker on Monday reiterated he would not sign a downgraded incentive-based ARU contract and was putting his rugby career on hold for a charity boxing debut as a cruiserweight.

Currently recovering from knee surgery, Cooper will appear on the undercard of close friend Sonny Bill Williams' heavyweight bout with South African Frans Botha at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

The fights are eight days before the Reds kick off their Super Rugby season against the Brumbies in Canberra on February 16 but QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael does not believe that will prevent Cooper from honouring his three-year deal at Ballymore.

In a statement, the QRU said Carmichael was confident negotiations with Cooper "will reach the next stage and the matter will be finalised in the coming weeks".

Carmichael met with Cooper on the weekend and has also been in discussions with ARU chairman Michael Hawker in an attempt to broker a new arrangement.

Both Cooper and Nasser painted a clear picture that he wants to continue playing for the Reds, and add to his 38 Test caps, but had been harshly treated by the ARU following his recent criticism of the Wallabies and state of the game.

"My desire for rugby will never fade ... but it's kind of out of my hands at the moment," he said at a press conference to promote his "KO to Drugs" fight against an unnamed opponent.

"Everyone can read between the lines and it's the powers that be who hold the cards."

An ARU spokesman released a one-line statement late Monday.

"We have an offer in front of Quade and his agent. We are still awaiting a formal reply," it read. Cooper's leading options outside of Australian rugby lie with high-paying clubs in Europe or Japan, however he would have to wait until August at the earliest to play again.

Dual international Williams predicted the 24-year-old would be a hit in rugby league and even offered to pay him half of his NRL contract with the Sydney Roosters.

Should the mercurial No.10 be lost to the code, the Reds say they already have a host of playmakers showing interest in becoming their marquee foreign player.

Cooper admitted he'd be full of nerves entering the ring but was adamant he had a strong jaw to cop any fierce blows that came his way.

"(Wallabies prop) Salesi Ma'afu got me a good one while I wasn't looking," he said of a past shot shrugged off in Canberra.

"He's a big bopper that fella.

"Boxing is all about working hard and desire. You can't hide anywhere out in the ring.

"It will be a whole different feeling."