AUSTRALIA is damned if it does and damned if it does not when it comes to the selection - or non-selection as it currently stands - of Quade Cooper.
So says Caloundra-based former Wallabies centre Barry Honan.
Honan, who played nine matches for Australia between 1968-69, understood why the mercurial Reds No.10 was omitted from coach Robbie Deans' 25-man Wallabies squad for the upcoming Test series against the British and Irish Lions.
He stressed, however, that Australia needed to play attacking football to beat the Lions, and that was why Cooper should be in the side.
Honan would have Cooper at five-eighth for the first Test in Brisbane on June 22 and his main rival, Rebels playmaker James O'Connor, at inside centre.
"The last game Cooper played (against the Rebels last Saturday) there were probably three negatives and two positives (about his play)," Honan said.
"You can forgive Deans for not having total confidence in a player who under pressure failed at times.
"You can't afford one mistake, let alone two or three.
"(But) you need people to create opportunities, and that's what Cooper does best.
"If you just play a conservative style against the Lions, I don't think you can beat them."
Deans wants Cooper to improve his physicality, consistency and directness of play.
Honan, 66, who started in eight of his nine Tests and played two Bledisloe Cup matches, was optimistic Australia could beat the Lions in what he believed would be a tight series.
That is a marked change from his thinking a year ago.
"Twelve months ago I thought we'd get flogged at this level," he said.
"But the way our Super Rugby franchises have played this year, I think we'll put together a very good squad."
Honan, whose older brother Robert played union and league for Australia, said the Wallabies needed to match the Lions in the forwards to have any chance of winning.
He is concerned they will fail to achieve that, given the scrum is Australia's long-time "Achilles heel".
"There's too much advantage for teams who dominate the scrums, and if the Lions' scrum dominates ours they'll win the series. I have no doubt about that," he said.
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