Genia comes to Cooper's defence

Thu, 23 May 2013 14:09
Large cooper tackles strauss630 Large quade cooper   will genia r Large cooper genia630

Will Genia is backing his halfback partner Quade Cooper to prove that he can handle the defensive pressures of playing flyhalf at the highest level.

Will Genia is backing his halfback partner Quade Cooper to prove that he can handle the defensive pressures of playing flyhalf at the highest level.

The Reds playmaker was left out of Robbie Deans' initial squad for the British and Irish Lions tour, with the Wallaby coach expressing reservations about Cooper's ability to handle the traffic that the visitors are likely to direct down the flyhalf channel.

However, Deans has challenged Cooper to prove him wrong in the coming weeks and earn one of the six vacant spots in the squad by standing his ground on defence.

Cooper has avoided defending in the frontline for both the Reds and the Wallabies in the past, with wing Digby Ioane typically stepping in to cover the inside channel and Cooper lurking in a deeper position in order to take advantage of his "counter-attacking abilities".

While this arrangement was good enough for Deans at the 2011 World Cup and beyond, he has since changed his mind and has asked the elusive pivot to show that he can defend like a traditional flyhalf in the coming weeks.

While Genia stopped short of confirming to this website that Cooper will defend the flyhalf channel against the Stormers on Saturday, it would appear that he has no other option if he would like to play a Test against the Lions.

Genia admitted that he was disappointed that his halfback partner has been snubbed by Deans, but pointed out that Cooper has been given the chance to show that he is capable of changing his game.

"The selectors have gone with who they think can do the job, it is disappointing as a mate and as a friend, but I think the best thing is that Robbie [Deans] has outlined very much what he wants Quade to do and get better at so he can put his case forward for selection in that last six.

"My fingers are crossed that Quadey works hard to do those things so that he can be there.

"I absolutely back him to get there. He has been playing exceptionally well for us thus far this season," said Genia.

Cooper has three games for the Reds to show that he can handle the pressure of defending at flyhalf, with the game at Newlands followed by a potential showdown with the Rebels' James O'Connor, who Deans has handed the Wallaby role to, before the Queensland side take on the Lions in their first tour match.

If Cooper can handle the torrent of one-off runners that the Stormers are sure to steer in his direction on Saturday then it could well make Deans sit up and take note.

By Michael de Vries

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