Quade Cooper of the Reds runs the ball during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Lions at Suncorp Stadium.
Quade Cooper of the Reds runs the ball during the round 13 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Lions at Suncorp Stadium. Chris Hyde / Getty Images

Reds aim to field stars in clash

QUEENSLAND coach Ewen McKenzie is eager to unleash his big guns on Wellington when the two sides collide in an exhibition match at Stockland Park on June 15, but only if they are not needed for national duty the following day.

The Sunshine Coast match represents the Reds' only hit-out during a five-week mid-season break and McKenzie is intent on making the most of it by utilising some of his 11 Wallabies players if they are not playing for Australia against Wales in Melbourne.

"There is a national squad of 30 and selectors will pick 22 for the Welsh Test, so there should be eight spare guys and if there are a few Reds there we'll hopefully grab them," McKenzie said yesterday.

"I have spoken to (national coach) Robbie Deans and he's definitely going to allow guys that aren't in the 22 to participate."

McKenzie could not say whether unpredictable stand-off Quade Cooper, who recently returned from a lengthy injury layoff, would play at Bokarina if not needed by Deans.

"There's no doubt (he needs a run), but we've also got to make sure he's 100% in terms of his recovery," McKenzie said.

"He's down there at the Wallabies camp and they have been putting him through his paces and obviously they don't think he's quite ready yet.

"There's medical input still going on with him.

"Even though he's played a little bit, there's still a few bits and pieces which he's got to tidy up."

A linchpin of Queensland's premiership-winning run last year, Cooper damaged his knee at the World Cup and struggled to impose himself.

He has played less than two games for the Reds since his comeback, but McKenzie is backing the 24-year-old to get back to his best.

"No question," he said.

"He suffered what is normally a seven to nine-month injury. He played last week after six and a bit months, so he's ahead of schedule in many respects.

"The fact he has been on the field already does give him a great launching platform."

McKenzie confirmed Reds regulars Radike Samo, Ed Quirk, Jake Schatz, Greg Holmes and Adam Wallace-Harrison should play next week.

"And there are a couple of guys we want to have a look at contractually for next year, so it's a good opportunity for them," the coach said.

The ninth-placed Reds and sixth-placed Hurricanes are desperately chasing Super Rugby finals berths.

With just three rounds remaining, McKenzie expects a free-flowing affair on the Coast.

"The Hurricanes are one of the highest scoring teams in the competition, so it should be an open-running affair," he said.

The 46-year-old, linked to the Reds until 2014, denied rumours he could return to Sydney to take the reins of the Waratahs in the near future.

"That was just newspaper talk. It was just a journalist thinking out loud," he said.

"No one actually asked anyone any questions.

"It didn't come from anywhere - it was just a journalist speculating really.

"I'm happy here. This is my third year up here and I've still got unfinished business."