Cooper to draw on "healthy rivalry" with Foley

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Quade Cooper will use his "healthy rivalry" with Bernard Foley as added motivation in what already shapes as a season defining clash with the Waratahs on Saturday.

The pair have chopped and changed as first choice flyhalf through Michael Cheika's tenure and have even played alongside each other for a considerable stretch of Tests last year.

While Cooper's mind was clearly on his duties in leading the Reds to a second consecutive win at Suncorp Stadium, he did highlight the desire to earn the starting job when the June Test series rolls around.

"We've played alongside each other for a long time now so there is always going to be a healthy rivalry," Cooper said.

"Everyone wants to start - everyone wants that starting job.

"But at the same time my job is here in the Reds jumper and that's all I'm focused on."Cooper was superb in his return to Reds rugby against the Kings. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile they aren't in direct contrast, Cooper and Foley are very different players that offer very different skill sets for the Wallabies.

When Cooper is on song and getting clean, front foot ball there is little the opposition can do to contain him.

He gets his forward rolling over the gain line and organises his backs with the eye of a true field general, always making the right pass and right decision when required.

His passing is superb on both sides and he is a touch more agile, though Foley is perhaps better in searching for his own line breaks.

Cooper's performance against the Kings - while not against strong opposition - was evidence of what he can do behind a dominant forward pack.

Foley is more understated in his approach to controlling his team's attack but does not lack creativity.

He has, however, had the unpredictability of Kurtley Beale inside him in the last three seasons.Can Cooper lead the Reds to victory against the Tahs? Photo: Getty ImagesHe has taken on more of an attacking burden in 2017 and does not look out of place in doing so - all the while remaining a more astute field kicker and more reliable in the defensive line.

"He's been the cornerstone of their attack for a long period now," Cooper said.

"Obviously with Kurtley Beale being there over the past few years - those two have had a good combination.

"It's been a little bit different not having Kurtley there so more is falling on Nard's (Foley's) shoulders.

"He's a great threat in terms of his running game, he's a good communicator in what I've had to do with him.

"He's where it all evolves around.

"If we stop the ball at him and Izzy (Folau) doesn't get the ball - he's probably their best attacking weapon - if we can slow down the ball and momentum when it gets to him, that's going to put us in a good position."

On a team front, Cooper said the desire to pick up bragging rights over NSW burned strong.

"You only have to go have a yarn to the boys - Karmichael obviously played State of Origin, Thorny did as well - you can feel the energy just coming off them in the lead up to a game like this.

"In saying that, it's a totally different sport.

"Any Queensland-New South Wales clash is always a tough, competitive environment and we are just focused on our season and trying to improve our season."

The Reds host the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and on radio at RUGBY.com.au.

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