Cooper return has Reds coach excited

Two Crusaders greats may be set to make their swansong but it was Quade Cooper's unexpected return that had Queensland coach Richard Graham excited ahead of Friday night's Super Rugby clash.

The Reds face an uphill battle against a Canterbury outfit that looks set to give an emotional farewell to Richie McCaw and fellow All Blacks great Dan Carter at what looms as their final home game at Christchurch.

However, Reds coach Richard Graham was more encouraged by Cooper's comeback ahead of schedule from a shoulder injury.

The Wallabies playmaker will be assessed next week by a specialist.

But Graham tipped Cooper to play their final four games starting with the May 22 clash with the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium in what would be an ideal hit-out before the Rugby Championship starts in July.

Cooper was initially tipped to play just the final two matches when he fractured his shoulder blade against the Melbourne Rebels last month.

"At this stage I would say the last four games are realistic, certainly the last three," Graham said.

"His recovery has been good and Quade looks after himself."

Despite speculation linking Cooper to French club Toulon, Graham rated contract negotiations with his playmaker as "positive".

"Unfortunately with these things they don't go to the timeframe that you would want them," he said.

The one thing Graham could guarantee was an emotion-charged night as the Crusaders fans looked set to say goodbye to some of their favourite sons.

Carter is off to French club Racing Metro and McCaw - back from concussion - is set to confirm his retirement.

Teammates Tom Taylor, Colin Slade and Willi Heinz have all announced that they will be heading offshore after this season with the seven-time champions.

The Friday night clash marks the team's final home game unless they qualify for the Super Rugby finals and earn the right to host a game.

"No doubt there will be a fair bit of emotion - two of their greats in Carter and McCaw playing their last game at home," Graham said.

"But for us it is about playing the game not playing the occasion."

Meanwhile, Graham has played down speculation flanker Liam Gill may turn his back on Super Rugby in a bid to compete in Sevens Rugby at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Gill - who enjoyed his Glasgow Commonwealth Games Sevens experience - would have to sit out the 2016 season in order to contest Rio.

"The one thing about Liam, he has made it pretty clear that he has a lot left to achieves in the 15s," Graham said.

"Over the last couple of years through injury, selection or form he hasn't achieved the Test status that he would have liked.

"The Sevens at this stage is a nice idea in the background somewhere.

"I know his priority is the 15s."

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