'It's not about me against the All Blacks'

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There are plenty of unknowns around the return of Quade Cooper to the Test arena but there is one thing of which he is sure - this weekend is not about him.

Cooper has been a polarising figure in New Zealand, among the public especially, but he said on Thursday, after being recalled into the Wallabies' starting side,  that Saturday would not be his own personal redemption attempt.

Quade Cooper is focusing on the job at hand. Photo: Getty Images“It’s not about me against the All Blacks, it’s about the Wallabies against the All Blacks, Australia against New Zealand,” he said.

“So, I’m not getting drawn into anything personal.

"I'm not coming over here thinking I need to do anything special to beat the All Blacks. We need to do something as a team and we owe, not only to ourselves, but the public back at home.”

Saturday’s Test will be Cooper’s first Test since Australia’s World Cup pool win over Uruguay last year and first against New Zealand since last year’s second Bledisloe Test in Auckland.

A stint in Toulon and with the Aussie Sevens have come in that time and though Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was recently espousing a more even, consistent Cooper, the man himself wasn’t making any predictions.

“I can’t say that I’m going to be more consistent or anything like that but I know that every time I put the jumper on  I give it everything I’ve got and this will be no different,” he said.

“I want to go out there and do the best that I can to contribute to the team and get a victory for the team.”

While Cooper was not keen to make it about himself, his Test return was a hard topic to avoid on Thursday.

Quade Cooper and Richie McCaw had a long rivalry. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen asked about the treatment of Cooper on this side of the ditch,  Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said he simply couldn’t explain it.

“I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you,” he said.

“The lad’s doing his best every day at training and the only relationship I’ve had with him is here and everything he has done has been A1 for me.

“I don’t know why he’s a polarising figure, to me he’s not that type of person.”

While he might be enemy number one in New Zealand fan’s eyes, coach Steve Hansen and Cooper’s opposite number, Beauden Barrett, said there was no such disdain within the All Blacks camp.

Beauden Barrett had plenty of praise for Quade. Photo: Getty ImagesHansen said the addition of Cooper would enhance the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Cup Test.

“Quade's a good player,” he said.

“He gets maligned a wee bit over here because of a few incidents with Richie [McCaw]. We're not too forgiving on people that pick on Rich - I'm talking about the fans there.

“But within the team he's well respected, he's a good player so he'll enhance them I think.”

Speaking before the Wallabies team was confirmed, Barrett said he hoped the Wellington crowd treated Cooper as if he were any other player.

“He's a good bloke and he deserves to be treated like anyone else. As a player, we respect him and if he gets the nod, then that's great for him,” he said.

“I haven't seen him play for a while but what we remember of him is his skills, his fast feet - he's a really good stepper and we'll analyse his kicking.

“So there are a few things you look at - you don't get too carried away but you just make sure you do your homework.”

The Wallabies take on New Zealand at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on Saturday, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST.