Cooper's shoulder injury leaves No 10 Test spot open

Quade Cooper walks off with a shoulder injury against the Melbourne Rebels. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Quade Cooper walks off with a shoulder injury against the Melbourne Rebels. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY UNION

Wallabies five-eighth Quade Cooper was ruled out of Australia's season-opening Test against France next month on a costly weekend for his battling Queensland Reds.

Cooper suffered a shoulder injury in Queensland's last-minute 30-27 loss to the Melbourne Rebels, a sixth straight defeat that leaves the Reds bottom of the Super Rugby ladder and facing the demoralising prospect of collecting the wooden spoon.

More immediately, though, Cooper's month on the sidelines leaves Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie on the hunt for a new No 10 for the first of three Tests against Les Bleus in Brisbane on June 7.

A standout on the Wallabies' spring tour, Cooper was likely to hold on to his Test starting spot despite the Reds' forgettable Super campaign, but now McKenzie must weigh up the merits of several playmaking contenders.

Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua, who made his Test debut in McKenzie's first match in charge of the Wallabies last year, looks the favourite for a recall, but Bernard Foley has soared into contention after a superb season for the Waratahs.

Fellow Waratahs midfielder Kurtley Beale could also slot into the Wallabies playmaking hot seat, a role not unfamiliar to the classy backline utility.

Foley, though, was instrumental again for the Waratahs on Sunday, creating four tries and nailing seven goals from as many attempts to leave Michael Cheika's team in pole position in the race for Australian conference honours.

Meanwhile, Melbourne have been hit by halfback dramas with former Wallabies No 9 Luke Burgess suffering a knee fracture.

Injured in Saturday night's thrilling 30-27 win over Queensland, Burgess has suffered a tibial plateau fracture but he holds hopes that he can return before the end of the Super Rugby season.

The 30-year-old, listed for a six-to-eight week rehabilitation period, will be in a race to recover in time to make the Rebels' tour of South Africa over the last two rounds.

It's still a severe blow for Melbourne as Burgess enjoyed his best game since round three with a two-try display against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

The Rebels are already without rising youngster Nic Stirzaker, who had displaced the 30-year-old before injuring his ankle a fortnight ago against the table-topping Sharks.

Former Australian under-20 halfback Ben Meehan is now in line to take the No 9 jersey in his starting debut against the Waratahs in Melbourne on Friday night. AAP

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