The Highlanders had young first fives Fletcher Smith, 23, and Josh Ioane, 23, on the roster this year but only have completed the signing of Blues pivot Bryn Gatland for 2019 and beyond. Smith and Ioane may yet return but there is room for a marquee signing such as Cooper.
RugbyPass detailed late last year why Cooper would be a good short-term fit for the Blues, but at that stage, rosters had been finalised and the signing would require top level NZRU approval. The Highlanders have until October to finalise their 2019 squad with plenty of time to consider a deal with Cooper.
The Reds will be motivated to get Cooper off their books, given he is reportedly receiving AUD$600-$800,000 per season.
The Highlanders or any other suitor could attempt to negotiate a deal that sees the Reds and Rugby Australia continue to pay some of the cost, that would make the acquisition more affordable but would benefit both sides.
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