Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby World Cup: Quade Cooper has no regrets

Quade Cooper. Photo / Richard Robinson
Quade Cooper. Photo / Richard Robinson

The problem with embracing the role of pantomime villain is that the audience laughs at you when you take a fall. So although Quade Cooper was downcast following Australia's semifinal loss to the All Blacks, saying he was prepared to take anything the All Blacks could throw at him, the sympathy levels will remain low here.

Billed as the man who could haunt the All Blacks and add to their World Cup hurt, the New Zealand-born playmaker was the one feeling the pain after the 20-6 defeat at Eden Park.

He spoke of the abuse he received as soon as he arrived in New Zealand for the tournament following his one-way feud with All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw, and said he wouldn't change a thing, but his postings on Twitter revealed he was hurting more than he was letting on. Cooper said on the social network site straight after the game: "Firstly to all those that have stood proud and are still standing proud thank you all! It has been a tough six weeks and about to get tougher.

"They say everything happens for a reason. So we are ready for everything you can possibly throw at us now. You can't make us feel any worse.''

The 23-year-old told reporters of the attention he received: "Everyone was trying to get at me personally and I definitely think I'm going to be better off for it. The way that everybody came at me from all angles, whether it was the media, the crowd; they were all trying to make a big buzz out of it. I got used to it and I think I got a lot of confidence out of it. When we come up against them next time, whether it's in the Bledisloe, Super Rugby over here or another World Cup if I'm lucky enough to get that chance, I'm sure that this will come around again but I'll be better off for it.

"I'm not in a position to point fingers about that or have a cry about it mate. It's there, it's going to happen and it has happened. For me it was about getting on and doing the best for my team and I feel that I did that. Every time I went out on the field I give 100 per cent and I think I did that tonight.''

Asked if the attention was sometimes vindictive, he replied: "It's been the case in the whole tournament - from the minute I stepped off the plane until the minute I step on the plane. I'm sure everyone will have their opinions and I'm not going to try to make any perception different. I am who I am and I'm going to play my own way and whether you like it or not that's me.''

The writing was on the wall for Cooper when he starting the match by kicking the ball out on the full. He battled to get into the game, dropped high kicks and was dumped in some heavy tackles. He kicked a neat drop goal in the first half and a little of the tricky footwork appeared as the game wore on, but the all-enveloping All Black defence ensured his opportunities to spark something were limited.

"It showed the intensity and accuracy that they brought to the game,'' he said. "Right across the board they were just making it a personal contest between each player and at the end of the day they came out on top.''

All Blacks' coach Graham Henry wasn't afraid to add his observations when asked about the crowd booing New Zealand's "Public Enemy No1''.

"I think Quade Cooper probably brought a bit of that on to himself,'' Henry said. "He's got a wee bit of mileage to make up and he probably made up a bit of mileage tonight. So I think you've got to earn that respect and he lost that respect with his actions in previous test matches, so that's natural. But he tried very hard tonight and he kept his nose clean which was nice and he gained some respect.''

As for Cooper, one gets the feeling he will right the ledger at some stage.

"This is a massive occasion in anyone's career, whether you're a player or a coach or in the media, everyone's learned a lot out of this tournament,'' he said. "I'm in a very privileged position of standing out in there on the field in front of what was a massive crowd and the amount of viewers watching it around the world. It's been a lifelong dream and I'll never walk off the field with any regrets.''

- APNZ

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