Quade Cooper stokes New Zealand fires ahead of semi-final
Wednesday 12 October 2011
Australia's maverick fly-half Quade Cooper did little to quash his status as New Zealand's "public enemy number one" as he cranked up the pressure on the All Blacks ahead of Sunday's World Cup semi-final.
Cooper, who was born in New Zealand, has been subjected to a barrage of terrace abuse throughout Australia's campaign due to a long-running spat with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
However, the 23-year-old insists the barracking has not been a distraction and said pointedly that New Zealand fans have greater things to worry about.
The All Blacks have not lifted the Webb Ellis trophy since 1987 and have failed to reach the World Cup final at every tournament since 1995.
And Cooper agreed it would be "a tough one for them to swallow" if he was to inflict further World Cup misery by scoring the winning points at Eden Park this weekend.
"They are supposed to have won this World Cup for the past three tournaments and this is no different," Cooper said.
"A lot of pressure is on them to win this competition on home soil so I am sure they will be worried about how they are going.
"These are the moments you play rugby for, an opportunity to play against the best team in the world in their back yard in a World Cup semi-final."
Rocky Elsom, the former Leinster flanker, waded in behind Cooper to drive home the Wallabies' message that all the pressure is on All Black shoulders.
"They're the number one-ranked team in the world and they're in a country where they expect them to win the World Cup. Regardless of what happens the public expect that," Elsom said.
"You get a feeling around town that they won't tolerate anything less."
Cooper could have been lining up for the All Blacks this weekend had he taken up the option of returning to New Zealand as an 18-year-old.
"There was a time in my career where I had to decide whether I wanted to come play on this side of the Tasman," Cooper said.
"I had been living in Australia for such a long period of time, my whole family had moved over, I was enjoying my lifestyle.
"It was a very tough decision to want to move away from my family again and I was just starting to make a career with the Queensland Reds.
"I decided that that was the best fit for me."
There will be one small corner of New Zealand cheering Cooper on this weekend.
His Maori grandmother, Millie, still lives in Kaikohe and she has roped all her bowls club friends into cheering on her 'mokopuna' (grandchild).
"She has sent me a lot of text messages saying all her friends from the local bowls club are right behind me. That is a very heart-warming boost of confidence," Cooper added.
Australia are still sweating over the fitness of star full-back Kurtley Beale, who suffered a hamstring injury and did not train today.
Prop Sekope Kepu is also struggling with an ankle injury suffered in the Wallabies' quarter-final win against South Africa.
Cooper did not enjoy his best game last week as Australia, known for their scintillating back play, battled to an 11-9 victory over the Springboks.
"There is a lot on the line. The game at the weekend against South Africa shows the boys are up to it," he said.
"That wasn't the brightest performance but it just shows the character of the team to push through, not play your best game but still come away with the points.
"Having a good game will take second fiddle to winning the game."
Wallabies centre Anthony Fainga'a fired a warning to any All Blacks who believe they can target Cooper.
"I can tell you this," he said. "He never has two bad games in a row. Ever."
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