Quade Cooper will only “enhance” the Wallabies’ chances if picked for Saturday’s second Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says.
DANGERMAN: Quade Cooper’s recall to the Wallabies’ starting side has the All Blacks on red alert. Picture: Getty Images
Cooper was named at five-eighth when the Australian side wasunveiled on Thursday, after earlierspeculation he could start at No.12 to replace Matt Giteau (ankle).
The 28-year-old hasn’t played at international level since taking on Uruguay in last year’s World Cup and has a patchy record in New Zealand, where he has been booed mercilessly by local supporters and targeted by the All Blacks as a weak link in defence.
But coach Michael Cheika had little choice but to turn to Cooper as he deals with a spate of backline injuries, including to inside-centre options Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne.
“Quade’s a good player. He gets maligned a wee bit over here because of a few incidents with Richie [McCaw],” Hansen told reporters.
“We’re not too forgiving of people who pick on Rich – I’m talking about the fans.
“Within the team he’s well respected.
“He’ll enhance them, I think.”
All Blacks five-eighth Beauden Barrett hopes a sold-out Westpac Stadium takes it easy on the Auckland-born Cooper.
“He’s a good bloke and he deserves to be treated like anyone else,” Barrett said.
Hansen expects the Wallabies will kick more with Cooper as a second playmaker, next to Bernard Foley, in an attempt to control territory.
It’s anticipated Cooper will be partnered in the centres with Samu Kerevi, who looms as a straight swap for the out-of-form Tevita Kuridrani.
Other changes are also likely in the wake of last week’s 42-8 belting in Sydney.
Australia hasn’t won in New Zealand since 2001 and are the biggest outsiders in Bledisloe Cup history but Hansen is bracing for the “kitchen sink” to be thrown at them.
“They’ve had a big week over there with their own disappointment plus the media and their own fans having a crack at them,” he said.
“We’d be foolish to think they’re not going to turn up and play really well.”