QUEENSLAND Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has downplayed the significance of losing injured playmaker Quade Cooper for the start of next season, insisting the side has the structure and depth to cover the loss.
While McKenzie said that there was only one Quade Cooper, he was confident the reigning Super Rugby champions would not spiral out of control without the five-eighth.
Cooper is expected to be sidelined for six months after injuring his knee in Australia's third-place play-off win over Wales in the World Cup.
With the erratic No.10 being instrumental in the Reds' irresistible charge to glory last season, many pundits believe a fit and in-form Cooper is a must if the side is to successfully defend the title.
But McKenzie, who spoke at a rugby function at Matthew Flinders Anglican College last night, pointed out that the Reds used 37 players last season.
One player, even someone as talented as Cooper, was not going to derail their season, he said.
There was no reason to think the side would not have another good season.
"The idea when we set up the squad was really to have two players for every position," he said.
"We've got a flexible squad.
"There are up to five guys who can probably fulfil the role (of five-eighth).
"There's no Quade Cooper. Quade Cooper is a bit of an enigma … (but) one of the things about the Reds is no one knows what we're going to do.
"That allows us to explore different things without going away from our fundamental game."
McKenzie, who did not believe the side would be under added pressure as defending champion, nominated Michael Harris, Ben Lucas and Ben Tapuai as among Cooper's potential replacements.
He said someone would put up their hand.
"We'll obviously have to spend part of the season looking at that situation, but we're not going to be scared off our game," he said.
"But also, whoever solves the problem for us, play to their strengths."
On the push for him to replace Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach, McKenzie said he was not interested in the speculation.
He said he was negotiating an extension to his contract that would take him to the end of the 2013 season with the Reds and that process was going smoothly.
"I've got a good job and I'm setting up the squad and team for next year," he said.
"That's where I'm spending my time. I don't control what people say in the paper."
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