I’m not here to make friends, says Australia’s Cooper

The role of public enemy number one amongst All Blacks fans sits well with Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper, who on Wednesday said he was in New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup — not to win new friends.

Cooper has riled New Zealand fans after a number of clashes with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and the flyhalf could be considered fortunate for escaping a ban after dropping his knee into the flanker’s head during the Tri-Nations victory in Brisbane in August.

“It doesn’t bother me at all, I don’t mind being public enemy number one,” 23-year-old Cooper told reporters at the team’s hotel in central Auckland on Wednesday.

“I actually enjoy it. It’s going to come with the territory. Like most New Zealanders hate the Wallabies but there is a lot out there that respect the way we play as well.

“We are here to win a competition we are not here to make friends or make enemies; it’s all about playing rugby and enjoying it at the same time.”

New Zealand-born Cooper also clashed with McCaw in the Wallabies’ Bledisloe Cup win in Hong Kong last year when he pushed the flanker’s head into the ground after the winning try.

McCaw pledged to get even with Cooper within the rules of the game and the animosity spilled over into the players’ provincial clashes in Super Rugby this season but the flyhalf said he had no problem with his opponent.

“I don’t know you’ll have to ask him. From my point of view there is not [any bad blood], it’s just a matter of he is wearing a different jersey,” Cooper said.

“I don’t know the bloke. I haven’t had much to do with him off the field but I know when he is out on the field he plays his heart out, wears his heart on his sleeve and he does a great job of leading the All Blacks.”

‘Boring myself’
The talismanic flyhalf is seen important for the Wallabies’ chances of claiming a record third World Cup title.

His attacking prowess and link-up play with scrumhalf Will Genia helped Australia win their first Tri-Nations title for a decade with their 25-20 victory over the All Blacks in Brisbane last month.

But the mercurial Queensland Reds back acknowledged he might need to play a more conservative game to help his side get to the World Cup final in Auckland — even if it goes against his natural instincts.

“There is a time and a place,” Cooper said.

“In a World Cup final it could be different, it is a matter of winning the game not how you play the game, but the way that I’d like to play the game is to try to keep it as entertaining as possible.

“I know when I’m out on the field if I feel like I’m boring myself then I know that the fans are going to be bored as well.

“I’d like to, hopefully, keep the game entertaining as well as win it. But first things first, you have got to win the game and it doesn’t matter how you do that.”

Cooper’s first chance to show he can tone down the razzle-dazzle will be against Italy in their Pool C opener at North Harbour Stadium, Albany, on Sunday.

After kicking four from six against the All Blacks in Brisbane, he will retain the duty with first-choice kicker James O’Connor only making the bench for his return from suspension.

“Why should I be concerned? I have been kicking all year [in Super Rugby], I’ve enjoyed it. It’s just a part of the game someone has got to do it,” Cooper replied when asked about the added responsibility.

“I’m blessed to have the job this week and hopefully I can kick well and do my part in getting Australia across the line.” — Reuters

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