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Wallaby Toomua links with 'rival' Cooper


They've been wrestling over No.10 jerseys since their Brisbane schoolboys days.

But playmakers Quade Cooper and Matt Toomua will put their rivalry behind them come Saturday night when they start side-by-side for the Wallabies in the third Bledisloe Cup Test in Dunedin.

Toomua, 23, has been promoted to second five-eighth from the bench following an injury to his Brumbies teammate Christian Lealiifano.

Having been given the nod at first five-eighth in the first two Bledisloe Test defeats at the start of the Rugby Championship, Toomua will line up outside Reds first five Cooper, who has since reclaimed the No.10 jersey.

"I'm not going to say there is no rivalry, obviously there is a rivalry," Toomua said.

"You look at the bloke who is in front or behind you. He's more often than not been in front of me."

While the success of both the Reds and Brumbies in recent years has helped bring the Cooper v Toomua debate to the fore, their jostling for the playmaker role extends as far back as the 2006 Australian Schools Rugby Championships.

Cooper, two years Toomua's senior, beat him to the Queensland I No.10 jersey that year - which also featured Kurtley Beale in the NSW I side.

However, Toomua did lead Queensland II to their first ever national title while he was still in Year 11.

"He (Cooper) was earmarked as a future prospect. Being a bit younger, you looked up to him and looked to challenge yourself," Toomua said.

Following school, Toomua found his development path blocked by Cooper and Berrick Barnes in Queensland, so he headed down to the ACT Brumbies as No.10 great Stephen Larkham was retiring.

"It was quite logical really," said Toomua.

That same logical, steady-as-you-go style is also how Toomua approaches his on-field decisions.

Compared to the mercurial Cooper, the two are chalk-and-cheese.

Yet Toomua is confident they'll strike the right balance.

"We've made no secrets about the fact that we're trying to do a first and second five-eighth," he said.

"I've heard a lot of guys say that sometimes you almost feel (Cooper) doesn't know what he's about to do but then he pulls off something amazing.

"So hopefully he can make a good break and I'll get the last pass to score a try."
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