Wallabies still counting on super Cooper

(Rugby News Service) Monday 10 October 2011
Wallabies still counting on super Cooper
All Blacks fans fear, as well as dislike, Australia star Quade Cooper

AUCKLAND, 11 Oct. - Quade Cooper may not have enjoyed the most productive of outings for Australia in their 11-9 quarter-final victory over South Africa on Sunday but Wallabies coach Robbie Deans believes the fly half still has plenty to celebrate.

Deans admitted the performance of his number 10 - so often a star for his team - was less than stellar at Wellington Regional Stadium but the coach was adamant Cooper had no reason to be too disappointed.

“Quade's delighted, as we all are, that we got through that challenge and he was a part of that,” said Deans. “He did some good things that were the point of difference on occasions.

"We're confident he'll bounce back. He's a resilient character. Clearly he wouldn't have been happy with his performance but everyone made mistakes. Some of our best made mistakes, but collectively they worked their way through it.”

Cooper has been the focus of intense scrutiny at Rugby World Cup 2011, having been cast in the role of public enemy No.1 in New Zealand and booed relentlessly during matches.

The Queensland Reds ace, who spent much of his childhood in Tokoroa in New Zealand's Waikato region, draws the ire of All Blacks fans for many reasons but the contempt they hold him in has its roots in a history of on-field spats with their captain, Richie McCaw. It is also, in part, recognition that Cooper, on a good day, has more than enough ability to inflict serious damage on Kiwi ambitions.

Mental baggage

But while his denigrators would have revelled in the 23-year-old's lacklustre display against the Springboks, Deans believes Cooper is mature enough not to lose sight of what he achieved as part of the Australian team.

“You get high-profile players and they get an inordinate amount of scrutiny,” he said. “They get an inordinate amount of reinforcement when things go well, and that can create challenges for them when things don't go quite so well. If their piece of it wasn't what they hoped it would be, it can bring mental baggage.

"That’s the great risk for players, that they actually miss a lot of what the game is all about when they get distracted by their little piece within it.

“Quade has actually come a long way in terms of his understanding that it is a team game. It's about helping the team to get up and he did that and deserves his piece of enjoyment off the back of that.”

And while the spotlight on him is unlikely to dim before or during the Wallabies' semi-final clash with New Zealand at Eden Park on Sunday, Deans believes Cooper can handle the pressure.

"It's something Quade's familiar with and he's certainly much better for his recent experience,” he said. “He's had the perfect preparation.”

RNS omg/eg/tc/mr