QUADE COOPER'S decision to turn down a massive offer from France to stay in Australian rugby union suggests he either believes he can still work with Robbie Deans or the Wallabies coach's days are numbered.
Cooper has accepted a new two-year deal from the ARU, which is believed to be similar to the $800,000 per season offer that was withdrawn after his criticism of the state of the game and the atmosphere in the Wallabies' camp.
After being stung by a record $40,000 fine for his comments - and a revised offer comprising of match payments and a $100,000 bonus if he started 60 per cent of Tests that the 23-year-old playmaker considered insulting - Cooper planned to play in France next year.
While he had agreed to a new three-year deal with the Reds, the $400,000 per season contract was dependent on him signing with the ARU, and Fairfax Media understands he was set to accept an offer from France that would have made him one of the highest paid players in the world.
However, Cooper made it clear at a press conference in Brisbane last week to announce he was fighting on the undercard of Sonny Bill Williams's February 8 bout against Francois Botha, he did not want to leave the Reds. Queensland chairman Jim Carmichael was desperate not to lose Cooper either, and he has been working behind the scenes to convince the ARU to make the 38-Test star an offer he would accept.
The new deal, which will be announced at a press conference in Brisbane on Friday, represents a massive backflip by the ARU after Cooper was made to feel he was effectively being forced from the game.
He said at his press conference with Williams he had rejected the offer on the table, while his manager, Khoder Nasser, blamed the ARU for a ''total communication breakdown''.
Officials have also been suggesting to Cooper his mentor at the Reds, Ewen McKenzie, will replace Deans as Wallabies coach and would want him to call the shots for the Test team the way he did in Queensland's 2011 Super Rugby premiership-winning season.
With Cooper in the No.10 jersey, the Reds have won 87 per cent of their matches but that ratio drops to just 50 per cent when he doesn't play.
Despite signing the new deal, Cooper will still make his professional boxing debut at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on February 8 - just a week before the Reds opening Super Rugby match against the Brumbies - and he has been training hard. Cooper's re-signing should ensure a capacity crowd for the Reds' first home match on February 23 against the Waratahs, who will feature former Queensland State of Origin star Israel Folau.
It was Cooper's criticism of the Wallabies' ''toxic'' culture and the state of the code that resulted in the downgraded offer after he failed to sign a more significant deal tabled mid-year.