Cheika backs under-fire flyhalf Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper starts for Australia

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has defended flyhalf Quade Cooper after he was
criticised for his performance in Australia’s loss to the All Blacks in the
Bledisloe Cup on Saturday.

Cooper was a surprise selection for the Eden Park game in Auckland, given his
history of being flustered when playing the All Blacks in New Zealand.

The 27-year-old made several errors in the first-half, but it was his sin-binning
early in the second-half for a head-high tackle that saw the All Blacks stretch
their lead.

“I thought he did well,” Cheika told reporters.

“We didn’t want to lose him to the sin-bin but he was trying to make a
try-saving tackle.”

“I thought he put us in good position early on and made some good plays
and led us around the park well until he had to leave the field.”

Before the Eden Park clash Cheika had already said Cooper would head to the
World Cup starting in England next month and the flyhalf felt he had justified
that faith.

“I did the job I needed to do in terms of controlling the team around
while I was out there,” Cooper said.

“I was disappointed with not being able to stay out there for the whole
game but that’s the way it’s gone.”

The Wallaby was booed by the 48,000-strong crowd but said he was not rattled.
“It’s professional sport. The crowd hasn’t got anything to do with it,”
he said.

“My mindset had blocked that out. I’m accustomed to training to that now.
I expect that.”

Wallabies’ captain Stephen Moore said his team needed to match the intensity
of the All Blacks, especially when they had a one-man advantage when Cooper
was yellow-carded.

“The tempo went up, particularly when we were down a man,” Moore
said.

“We need to learn from those periods and be able to operate a man down
like that, if it happens again.

“It’s the small details in these big games that make the difference.”

Moore added that the Wallabies paid the price for being unable to sustain the
same level of physicality as the New Zealanders.

“Any team when they play with that intensity and pace on the game, they’re
certainly hard to stop,” he said.

“I thought physically we aimed up for most of the game. There were periods
there when we just dropped away and they punished us and that was the difference.”

Cheika said an important difference was that the All Blacks stepped up a level
after losing 27-19 to the Wallabies in Sydney last week.

“The key issue is that we didn’t improve from last week’s performance
and the opposition did,” he said.

“The margins are like that. You go away from home and that’s what happens.”

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