Reds need a new first five-eighth until round seven
The reigning Investec Super Rugby champions have set a date for the return of first five-eighth Quade Cooper, but before then will have to rely on someone else to guide the reigns of the Reds.
If Cooper recovers from his injured knee in that time, he will miss only six games of the 18-round regular season, and will miss only two home fixtures.
New Zealand born playmaker Mike Harris is frontrunner to take over from Cooper, and the 23-year-old could push for Wallaby honours courtesy of an Australian grandmother.
Harris is on a ‘shortlist’ unveiled by McKenzie for players to replace Cooper, also featuring Ben Tapuai, Ben Lucas, Jono Lance, Dallan Murphy and 17-year-old Adelaide based Ulupano Seuteni.
The former North Harbour first five-eighth said to AAP that Cooper was a big loss but his absence presented a big opportunity.
"Quade is a big loss to the team but other guys will step up and it's a big opportunity for myself and a few others," Harris said.
"I'm pretty hungry and pretty keen to get out there and show what I can do.
"I've played quite a lot of 10 for North Harbour back in the (New Zealand) NPC and I feel comfortable in that position and would love to give it a decent crack."
McKenzie, who said Cooper’s operation last Thursday went well, said that the date was set despite the issue in replacing the long serving Reds ten.
Cooper had played 31 consecutive games at first five-eighth for Queensland, while he had featured in 52 of 53 matches since March 15, 2008.
Since McKenzie arrived at the Reds, Cooper has started in every match.
"It's disappointing to lose Quade but we have a number of capable players who can step in and excel in his absence,” McKenzie said.
“Within our contracted squad Mike Harris, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas and Ben Tapuai all have experience at the position, while Dallan Murphy and Ulupano Seuteni in our Extended Playing Squad are also young and exciting prospects at the playmaking position.
"I don't have any preconceived ideas at this stage on who will be selected. It's up to those individuals to now impress in the opportunities they will be given."
He hoped Cooper would be back sooner based on his approach to the game.
"Quade's operation went smoothly with surgery results confirming the circumstances of his injury are typical to what you normally expect from a torn ACL," McKenzie said.
"We're confident he'll return in the quickest time possible and hopefully in time for the Brumbies in early April. There's no doubting Quade's professional approach to the game and he will work tirelessly with our medical staff to ensure he is back on the field sooner rather than later.