Ireland won’t target Cooper in World Cup clash

The Ireland Rugby team have said that they have no plans to try and target me-breaking Australian fly-half Quade Cooper when the two teams in a daunting Rugby World Cup pool game

Backs coach Alan Gaffney said it would be a mistake to single out one player in the Wallabies’ richly talented back line, which cut loose with three second-half tries on Sunday along with an opening score from prop Ben Alexander.

“He’s got exceptional skill levels, he’s got fantastic vision and obviously very, very good pace. A very, very good player, world class and a very difficult player to handle,” Gaffney said of Cooper.

“(But) right across the board the Australian back line (have)… got so much potency in what they can do. So we won’t be concentrating on any one particular player, we’ve got trouble across the board there.”

The unpredictable Cooper was at the heart of Australia’s opening Pool C win as he laid on tries for Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor and Digby Ioane — who will miss Saturday’s match in Auckland with a broken thumb — and kicked two penalties.

But Gaffney said Australian scrum-half Will Genia was also in “outstanding” form, while fullback Geordan Murphy said Australia had enough talent at their disposal to absorb the loss of influential winger Ioane.

“We realise Genia is in absolutely outstanding form. I can’t speak highly enough of Genia, he’s just a special player,” Gaffney said.

“I think he is extremely important to Australia and I’ve got a lot of respect for Luke Burgess also. Right across the board for Australia there’s just a lot of threats there.”

Ireland endured a woeful World Cup build-up of four straight defeats, and confidence was not boosted by their unconvincing 22-10 victory over unfancied the United States in New Plymouth.

Backrow forward Denis Leamy said Ireland’s strategy was simply to close down Cooper as a team rather than deploy individual players, which could leave gaps in their defence.

“He’s a very instinctive player and he plays very much off the cuff,” Leamy said.

“It’s important that we keep our system and stick together and make sure that we shut him down as a unit and try not to bring any individual out of line, because that’s where he’ll make you look stupid.”

Number eight Jamie Heaslip also said Ireland planned to “draw a line in the sand” with the Australian pack, which has made vast improvements over the past year.

“I think to create momentum and space for our backs we’re going to have to carry the ball hard and run at them, and then on their ball be very physical on the line and win the battle of the gain line,” Heaslip said.

Gaffney said Ireland had been working to eradicate their glut of handling errors, and were trying to improve their decision-making by “putting players under enormous amounts of pressure” in training to make the right move at the right time.

And centre Gordon D’Arcy insisted Ireland retained strong belief they could register their first World Cup win against the two-time champions.

“I believe fully across the board that we can match Australia and beat them. But they’re still the form team coming into the Rugby World Cup,” D’Arcy said.

“They are a very good team. It would be foolish to say otherwise. But we can’t put them on a pedestal, we’ve got to look at them like any other team that we’ve ever faced and just go out and beat them.”

Ireland have not ruled any players out of Saturday’s game although heavyweight prop Tony Buckley has a badly bruised shoulder and Murphy missed training on Tuesday with a slight hamstring strain.

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