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Quade Cooper to Highlanders?

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Reports emerging that Quade Cooper drawing interest from one particular NZ franchise

The Otago Daily Times is reporting that discarded Reds playmaker Quade Cooper is drawing interest from the Highlanders, as a potential replacement first five for the departing Lima Sopoaga.

With Cooper holding a New Zealand passport, he would fall under the foreign quota restrictions having represented the Wallabies and being no longer eligible for the All Blacks.

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.

The 30-year-old would bring experience to a Highlanders side that has an aging, but world-class cast in Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, and Waisake Naholo.

Uniting Cooper with halfback Aaron Smith would be the best halfback he’s played with since Will Genia, and arguably the service Smith provides would be his best ever.

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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Reports emerging that Quade Cooper drawing interest from one particular NZ franchise