By Liam FitzGibbon
Quade Cooper is targeting a return to the boxing ring early next year to aid his Rugby World Cup preparations.
Cooper, who has a 2-0 professional boxing record, sparred with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika as part of fitness work in the lead-up to Australia's spring tour win over Wales a fortnight ago.
Working his way back into the line-up after injury, Cooper made his first Test appearance of the year in the loss to France on Saturday and his immediate focus is on helping Australia finish the tour strongly against Ireland and England.
But the 26-year-old has signalled his desire to set up a third career boxing bout before next year's Super Rugby season.
A return to the ring will likely depend on Cooper negotiating permission as part of his ongoing contract talks with the Australian Rugby Union.
Cooper is contracted with the Queensland Reds next season but is still in talks over a new national deal and ARU boss Bill Pulver has previously been sceptical about him juggling both sports.
But the playmaker believes if something can be worked out it would provide him with a perfect springboard into the World Cup year.
"I've got to stay healthy throughout these next few games but I'd love to, if the opportunity arose, be able to have one (a fight) early next year, before Super Rugby," said Cooper, who defeated Warren Tresidder by knockout in January.
"It's a good way for me to stay mentally focused throughout the festive season.
"There's a lot of Christmas pudding floating around so it's an easy way to stay in shape and also physically and mentally be refreshed for the season."
Boxing training with Cheika hasn't become a regular occurrence on tour and Cooper said the sparring session was just a way of mixing things up on a long tour.
"I think Cheik understood how much I enjoy doing it and he wanted to come and help me out with my conditioning and he loves doing it too," Cooper said.
"It was good fun. He really got into it and he's got some skills - he got me a few times."
Cooper looked sharp in a 20-minute stint off the bench against the French, despite playing in an unfamiliar role at inside centre.
With Bernard Foley having established himself as the first choice five-eighth during Cooper's injury-enforced absence this season, former incumbent Cooper has to grab any opportunity he can get and insists he's not fazed by playing second fiddle.
"I've enjoyed it. It's been a different role and all you can do is make the most of the role that's asked of you," Cooper said.
"Everybody wants to play but everybody wants to be here as part of this team. It's harder to be sitting back (home) watching on TV.
"Being here I'm just looking at every opportunity to improve and looking at what I can do to become better.
"It's a good place to be."