BRISBANE - They're renowned for their flair and dazzling skills but Quade Cooper is also bracing for a battle of strength against James O'Connor in their playmaking duel tonight.
In his 50th Super Rugby match, O'Connor will both captain the Melbourne Rebels and guide them around AAMI Park in a mouth-watering match-up against Queensland five-eighth Cooper.
As disappointed as Cooper is for the other member of the Wallabies's "three amigos", the injured Kurtley Beale (broken hand), he's on guard for the deceptive power of O'Connor at No.10.
The 22-year-old has consistently surprised defenders in the early rounds of the competition from fullback and highlighted his extra strength with four tackle busts in the 31-26 loss to NSW.
After missing the entire Test season last year with hamstring problems, O'Connor has bulked up and now tips the scales at 90kg, almost 10kg more than when he made his Wallabies debut in 2009.
"He's grown up a lot and he's a lot bigger," Cooper told AAP. "He's not like a little 18-year-old anymore.
"He's actually now a very powerful player and is a lot bigger than what people's memories of him are when he burst onto the scene.
"He's worked hard at his strength and his power and it's come right into his game with how many tackles he breaks and his defence."
Defence has also been a much improved feature of Cooper's game since he returned from his knee reconstruction last year.