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Lions could crush Cooper's hopes

The British and Irish Lions could on Saturday quash Quade Cooper's final hope of facing them in a Test series when he was expected to have played an integral role for Australia.

Gifted fly-half Cooper will captain the Queensland Reds against Sam Warburton's tourists, knowing it is his last chance to leave any kind of impression on Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans.

Cooper is surprisingly not part of Australia's preliminary squad for a three-game series that begins back in Brisbane on June 22. James O'Connor is understood to have nailed down the number 10 shirt, although a big performance from Cooper in front of a sell-out 52,000 Suncorp Stadium crowd could potentially give Deans some food for thought.

"Quade Cooper has a point to prove," said Lions assistant coach Rob Howley. "He is a hugely talented player who will be looking to have the ball in his hands as much as possible.

"It is going to be a tough test. We are delighted they have picked the strongest side they could have done."

Reflecting on his choice of Cooper to skipper Queensland, Reds director of coaching Ewen McKenzie said: "Quade is a proven winner. The reality is that we win more games with him in the side.

"But what most people don't know or see is the responsibility and ownership he takes on with regards to our game-plan. Right now, with seven current Wallabies unavailable, he is also our most experienced international player."

And Cooper added: "The history and tradition that surrounds the Lions obviously speaks for itself, so it will be quite humbling to lead Queensland out on Saturday.

"It's a proud moment any time you get to lead a side, but the fact that I've been at the Reds since I was 15 years old just adds to the occasion on a personal level."

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