Australian Rugby
Cooper shrugs off 'pantomime villain' label
ESPNscrum Staff
September 15, 2011
Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper comes under the full glare of the media, Australia press conference, Rugby World Cup 2011, Crowne Plaza hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, September 7, 2011
Cooper has faced criticism in the New Zealand press © Getty Images

Australian fly-half Quade Cooper is adamant he has no problem with the ongoing criticism surrounding his demeanour on the field.

The prodigiously-talented Cooper has become public enemy number one among Kiwis thanks to his ongoing feud with All Black skipper Richie McCaw. An enormous media contingent gathered at Australia's team hotel in Auckland on Thursday to watch the mercurial 23-year-old field questions on the headlines he has been generating.

Even in Australia he is under attack with Wallaby great Nick Farr-Jones describing him as a "boofhead" whose antics may come back to haunt him later in the tournament. Cooper's response to the remark was: "I looked at it in a positive manner. I look forward to the game that we have this weekend.

"Nick's already said we'll be in the final against the All Blacks so in his eyes we're a lot better than we are. We've got a game this weekend which we have to focus on and then another two pool games against USA and Russia, so there's a long way to go before we can think about that."

When asked about becoming a target for the New Zealand public, he replied "to be honest, I don't really care". A mischievous press conference started with James O'Connor being quizzed over his return to the starting line-up for the first time since being suspended after missing a function for the Wallabies' World Cup squad announcement.

The 21-year-old wing swatted away repeated questions over his absence and refused to be drawn on his indiscipline. "I'm stoked, I can't wait to go against Ireland," he said. "Is it nice to be able to focus on rugby now. I want to focus on Ireland, I've done a lot of good preparation this week and this is where my head's at."

Coach Robbie Deans drew a line under the issue when he insisted O'Connor had learnt his lesson. "I've got no doubt he'll be less likely to take that jersey for granted in the future," said Deans.

Good natured banter between the four players - Rocky Elsom and Kurtley Beale were also in attendance - peppered a press conference that offered little insight into Saturday's critical Pool C showdown with Ireland.

Former Leinster flanker Elsom, however, offered an explanation as to why northern hemisphere teams are able to punch above their weight at the World Cup. European sides are routinely flattened when they host touring Tri-Nations sides or travel south of the equator themselves, yet have supplied a finalist - England or France - in all but one final, the 1995 showpiece between New Zealand and South Africa.

"You find that in World Cups matches tend to drift towards the way the game is played in the northern hemisphere," he said. "In the first round there was a lot of kicking. It starts to become a more tactical field-position type game which is what they are more accustomed to in the northern hemisphere. Feeling comfortable with that type of game is important."

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