Cooper in Christchurch spotlight
Cooper in Christchurch spotlightSHARE
Quade Cooper’s return to Christchurch will add extra spice to Saturday’s Super Rugby play-off between the Crusaders and the Reds.
The Reds and Wallaby flyhalf was public enemy number one during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand due to his well-documented rivalry with Crusaders and All Black captain Richie McCaw.
McCaw, who made his comeback in a club game at the weekend, will be available for selection after being cleared by SANZAR, and the possible renewing of this heated rivalry has Australasian fans champing at the bit ahead of the clash at AMI Stadium.
Cooper, an all-round controversial figure following his criticism of former Wallaby coach Robbie Deans and the “toxic” environment within the Australian camp, knows he's in for a hostile welcome in his first match in Christchurch since making his debut as an 18-year-old replacement.
"I expect that every week, nothing changes," Cooper told AAP on Monday. "That's part and parcel of rivalries in rugby and I have got a great rivalry with the Crusaders as a team.
"I'm sure that rivalry will add to the occasion."
Cooper and Reds Director of Rugby Ewen McKenzie said they are confident about downing the Crusaders in Christchurch despite being considered underdogs.
The Brisbane side eked out a rusty 14-12 over the Waratahs at the weekend in their first match after the Wallabies’ series loss to the British and Irish Lions.
McKenzie, however, was unconcerned that his team may be undercooked and expected Saturday’s match will bring out the best in his side.
"There's a good rivalry and both teams bring the best out of the other," McKenzie said.
"We handle on-the-road stuff pretty well, we've handled the Kiwi teams alright, we've done pretty well against the Crusaders – there's a lot of things we can look at and say there's plenty of reasons for confidence."
McKenzie noted that the Crusaders have shown vast improvement on attack since the June Test window but he backed his team’s defence and said they would be in the Crusaders’ faces.
"They've found a rich vein of form. They'll be playing with a lot of confidence but we have to take them out of the confidence zone,” McKenzie said.
"You have to have a good attack and a good defence. They've got it and I think we've got it too so it makes a pretty potent match."