SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian fly-half star Quade Cooper set his sights on the Olympic Games on Thursday after being released by his French club side Toulon to play in the Sevens World Series.
The 27-year-old will join the Australian sevens squad for the Sydney, Paris and London legs of the 2015-16 world series, hoping to force his way into the Olympics squad for Rio in August.
"I'm passionate about Australian rugby and to be given this opportunity to represent my country in a different form of the game is one which excites me," said Cooper, who has won 58 Test caps and was part of the Wallabies squad that finished runners-up at the 2015 World Cup.
"I'm looking forward to working with the players that are already part of the squad and hopefully I can add something to the group.
"As a rugby player growing up you never think you'll have the chance to play at an Olympics so I'll be doing everything I can to make the squad.
"The Olympics is a real opportunity to grow the game of rugby in Australia and it would be a privilege to play my part in that."
Cooper had to renegotiate his deal with European champions Toulon when he signed on at the French club last year following the World Cup. He said at the time that the first version of his contract did not mention being freed for national games.
"I would like to thank Toulon and Mourad Boudjellal (Toulon president) for coming to an agreement with the Australian Rugby Union which will allow me to pursue this opportunity," added Cooper.
The Sydney leg of the Sevens World Series takes place on Feb 6-7 with the Paris event set for May 14-15 and London the following weekend.
Cooper, however, will not feature in the series stop-offs at Wellington, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Australian coach Andy Friend added: "We are delighted that Quade has agreed to join the national Sevens program. He brings with him an X-factor that I feel could add an extra dimension to our squad.
"The key for us is the fact that Quade has a genuine desire to represent his country in the World Series and Rio Olympics. I believe we already have a talented squad and adding Quade to that mix will only help us as we look ahead to a busy 2016."