Can Cooper get Carter? The perfect 10 faces his mercurial challenger - Club Rugby - Rugby Union - The Independent

Can Cooper get Carter? The perfect 10 faces his mercurial challenger

The world's best fly-halfs come face-to-face in the Super 15 final today. Winston Aldworth in Auckland compares the pair

Rugby's perfect No 10 could meet his match today in a player whose imperfections are part of his charm.

Daniel Carter, the game's perfect brain packaged in a silky machine of surprising pace and power, has been rugby's finest playmaker pretty much since he first donned the black of New Zealand black in 2003. The Crusaders fly-half is as close to the perfect 10 as you'll see, with his style on the field straight out of the manual and a tactical nous that reveals a dedicated and serious student of the game.

The talents of the Australian Quade Cooper are more mercurial. You'll find very little of his game in the Carter textbook. His kicking for distance can be loose and he is prone to the odd stunning gaffe, but when the muse strikes, the Queensland Reds fly-half can be near impossible to contain.

This morning Cooper, the rising star who has chosen a World Cup year in which to ascend, compares his talents with Carter, the pair having guided their sides to the Super 15 final in Brisbane.

Carter's path was as well-documented as it was arduous. The February earthquake that levelled the Crusaders' hometown of Canterbury and swamped their ground sent the side on a globetrotting campaign as perennial visitors in a competition where it hurts to be away from home.

His well-rounded game has no particular weakness. His greatest strength is his decision-making. Cooper, on the other hand, stakes all his chips on attack.

Much of Cooper's play is reminiscent of Carlos Spencer, the man Carter succeeded in the All Black No 10 jersey. A guy whose first, second and third instinct was to play the game with wit, to leave spectators, opponents and – a little too often – his support players wondering what on Earth he would do next. Spencer was terrific to watch – except when it all went wrong. But he always made footy fun, as does Cooper.

Born in the Waikato region of New Zealand, Cooper is at the heart of a golden age in Queensland rugby. Forget winning the Super 15; the Reds have been attracting bigger crowds than the Brisbane Broncos in Australian league's heartland. In the ongoing turf war between oval-ball footy codes that dictates Aussie rugby's every move, Cooper's theatrics and dash are a decisive edge.

Away from the playing field, the differences between Dan and Quade are just as pronounced.

On a drunken night out on the Gold Coast in December 2009, Cooper had a run-in with the law that nearly ended his nascent international rugby career. He was caught with an allegedly stolen laptop and arrested on burglary charges. The matter was settled out of court, the charges were dropped and the Australian Rugby Union put Cooper on a short leash. Quitting the booze has definitely helped.

Cooper spoke of it as a wake-up call. "The best that has come of it is that it has made me focus more," he said. "People have always said I have good skills on the field, but I guess I have just lacked that focus."

Carter, for what it's worth, would no sooner be collared by police in the small hours of the morning accused of carrying stolen merchandise than would he chuck a no-look cut-out pass under his own posts. A product of the well-to-do Christchurch Boys High, his life off the pitch – like his game – is pretty much by the book.

In the goalkicking stakes, there's no comparison. Cooper's wayward kicking meant the easy victory the Reds deserved in last week's semifinal against the Blues was always just out of reach. He landed only three from seven, with some shocking misses along the way.

He takes an odd stance before striking the ball, his arms out to one side like a Russian Kalinka dancer frozen in time or – worryingly – like a non-kicker parodying the self-conscious approach of the side's full-time kicker. Still, he's hitting 69 per cent for the season, not too far off Carter's 74 per cent, although Carter will happily attempt tougher shots than his Reds opposite.

Carter's goalkicking, like the rest of his game, is strictly efficient. He's been banging them over for the All Blacks since 2003 and will do so again this morning.

For all the attention on the two men in the No 10 jerseys, another figure might yet hold the key to this Super 15 final. The appointment of a New Zealand referee, Bryce Lawrence, to control the match has struck a rough note with commentators of the game in Australia.

When these sides met in pool play, Australian referee Stu Dickinson decided the result with a last-minute ruck penalty against Richie McCaw that had many in the Land of the Long White Cloud fuming. Cooper landed the goal from right in front of the sticks.

If Lawrence – with a more Kiwi assessment of the terms of ruck engagement – strikes one back for the New Zealanders, expect Carter to do the honours and look out for thunder over the Tasman Sea.

Super 15 Final Details

Queensland Reds v N Zealand Crusaders

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 10.40am

*TV Sky Sports 2, HD2, 10.30am-1pm

Quade Cooper

*Age 23

*Height 6ft 1in

*Weight 14st 8lbs

*Club Queensland Reds

*Super Rugby Apps/Pts 62/390

*International Apps/Pts 24/41

*International debut November 2008, v Italy in Padova

Dan Carter

*Age 29

*Height 5ft 10in

*Weight 14st 11lb

*Clubs Canterbury, Crusaders

*Super Rugby Apps/Pts 94/1259

*International Apps/Pts 79/1188

*International debut June 2003, v Wales in Hamilton

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week