They will be fierce rivals on the field tonight but, such is the friendship between Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper and All Blacks sensation Sonny Bill Williams, the Rugby World Cup semi-final at Eden Park may be the last time they play each other.
While Cooper and Williams will be desperate to ensure their country remains in contention to win the tournament, they have a keen desire to play together and are even prepared to consider switching codes to do so. Williams has already been strongly linked with a move to Sydney Roosters next season and if he does return to the NRL then Cooper may follow in 2013.
”I’ve been in touch with him, he’s a good mate,” Williams said. ”But on the field it’s a different story. I want to win and he wants to win. I want to win for New Zealand, he wants to win for Australia. Outside of the field we’re really good mates and that’s how it will always be.”
Cooper said: ”I’ve sent him a couple of texts wishing him well, and I have been enjoying the way that he’s been playing. He’s showed through the World Cup he is a very talented player, a very special player. Every game that he’s played he’s been moved around, and each game he has excelled. It just shows what a talented athlete he is.”
The 26-year-old may now be set to return to Sydney as he is off contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union as soon as the All Blacks’ World Cup campaign ends, possibly tonight.
There was speculation during the week that he was set to join the Parramatta Eels, while The Sun-Herald has also learnt that Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler had expressed an interest this year in luring Williams to Brookvale.
However, the Roosters are considered favourites if he returns to league and are also believed to be interested in Cooper, who grew up playing league alongside Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Cooper is contracted for next season but has regularly stated a desire to play in the NRL and signed only a one-year deal with the ARU to keep the possibility of playing alongside Williams.