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Cooper in, Daley in doubt for Reds trial
Laine Clark
17:33 AEST Thu Jan 24 2013

Budding boxer Quade Cooper is set to come out swinging in the Queensland Reds' opening pre-season rugby trial against the Blues on February 2 - just six days before his first professional bout.

The Reds said on Thursday Cooper had been locked into next weekend's clash in Toowoomba, but a question mark remained over ex-Wallabies prop Ben Daley after a training mishap.

Daley strained a calf muscle at Ballymore but a Reds spokesman said the full extent of the injury would not be known until Friday.

The prop had been touted as a potential Reds skipper for the trial by director of coaching Ewen McKenzie with Wallabies skipper James Horwill (hamstring) battling to be fit and halfback Will Genia (knee) sidelined.

Daley will hope his rotten run doesn't continue after collarbone, hamstring and thumb ligament injuries disrupted in 2012 campaign.

Young guns Liam Gill and Jake Schatz now look set to emerge as leading contenders to start the year as Reds captain.

Backrowers Gill, 20, and Schatz, 22, are both highly rated by McKenzie and each have captained Australia's Under-20 teams to Junior World Cups.

McKenzie is hopeful Horwill will return in the Reds' second and last trial against 2012 championship-winning Chiefs on February 8 - the same day Cooper makes his boxing debut.

Cooper has been juggling rugby with sparring as he prepares for his much anticipated bout with seasoned fighter Barry Dunnett on the undercard of sport-hopping good mate Sonny Bill Williams' heavyweight stoush with South African Francois Botha at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

However, McKenzie has locked in Cooper for their opening trial, saying he never seen his charge more focussed ahead of a Super Rugby season.

But the Reds coaching boss said competition was tight for the rest of the starting team ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season.

"During the next fortnight our entire squad has the chance to reap the rewards of the hard work they've put in during months of pre-season activity by taking an opportunity that will be presented to them during our two trial matches," McKenzie said.

"We have created an environment where there is healthy competition across every position and it's now up to each individual to put their best foot forward and push their case for selection.

"There is a huge incentive for those that perform to earn their spot during the opening two rounds against the Brumbies and Waratahs."