The Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says defending Super Rugby champions Queensland will be more dangerous and less predictable without Quade Cooper, who he is tipping to bounce back from a traumatic World Cup.
Deans is confident the Reds, who start their defence against arch rivals the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, can handle being hunted by the opposition and will feature again at finals time.
However they will have to negotiate the first part of their campaign without first five Cooper, who suffered a serious knee injury in the World Cup bronze medal match and has only just resumed running.
Deans expects Cooper to be back playing before the four June inbound Tests, but doesn't expect him to be ready for those games against Scotland and Wales.
He believes the Reds and Waratahs are the main Australian contenders and he's tipping the Crusaders and Blues to spearhead the New Zealand challenge with the Stormers and Sharks to do likewise for South Africa.