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Cooper unsure on return

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Sportal.co.nz     23 Feb 2012     Getty Images

Cooper is on the comeback trail after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Wales in the third-place playoff match at the World Cup in October.

The 23-year-old only started running again for the first time at Reds training last week and kicked a ball for the first time at a promotion on Wednesday ahead of the start of the Investec Super Rugby season this weekend.

Early indications are Cooper should be ready for a return to competitive rugby by mid-April and despite being happy with his progress the enigmatic No.10 is taking the cautious approach.

"The timeframe is generally six to nine months but it really depends how it feels," Cooper said on Wednesday.

"I ran one-and-a-half (kilometres) yesterday and pulled up really well ... I had no pain, no swelling so everything's looking good."

"It feels great and is coming along well so hopefully it's earlier rather than later."

"But I don't want to put a date on it as I don't want to get my hopes up and let myself down."

When asked if he thought he would be ready to go by the time the June Tests against Scotland and Wales come around, given Wallaby coach Robbie Deans indicated on Tuesday he doubted he would be fit, Cooper said: "I haven't put a date on it but as soon as I'm ready to get out and play I'll get out and play."

"Whether it will be club football, Test match football or Super Rugby, you've got to be picked for each one of those games."

"Hopefully I've done enough work come the time to play to get selected in either of those."

With Cooper to miss the start of the Super Rugby season, Kiwi-born Mike Harris has been given first shot by Reds coach Ewen McKenzie to fill the Wallabies star's boots.

While Harris has played most of his Super Rugby in the centres, Cooper, who has been working closely with Harris during the pre-season, has no doubt he can handle the extra responsibility in the halves.

"He's confident in his ability as we are as a team, everyone's behind him," Cooper said.

"I've been speaking to him regularly, more about positional play, game planning and just being his eyes and ears out on the field when they train."

"I've been giving him as many tips as possible but you don't want to give someone too much tips and tread on their toes."

"He has his own ideas and I just try and pitch in as much as I can."

Meanwhile, Cooper said he has moved on after a difficult World Cup campaign where he struggled to deal with intense scrutiny of being Australia's main man and believes the prolonged absence with the knee injury has been a 'blessing in disguise'.

"It's made me have to work harder and realise there's small things like injuries and that you have to look at in the big picture," he said.

"It's taught me not worry about how people view you and how the crowds view you."

"You just have to go out there and do the job to the best of your ability and make sure you don't back off or shy away from the responsibility you have as a footballer for your team."

"When I get back out there I just want to do my best for the Reds and hopefully the Wallabies."