Rugby World Cup 2011
Cooper: Pressure on All Blacks
Quade Cooper (AFP)
Auckland - Under-fire Australia playmaker Quade Cooper attempted to switch the spotlight away from his own game and onto New Zealand ahead of this weekend's Rugby World Cup semi-final.
Cooper, cast as the "villain" by New Zealand fans for his past needling of All Black skipper Richie McCaw, had one of his poorest games in a gold jersey during last weekend's epic 11-9 quarter-final win over South Africa.
The flyhalf, richly talented but given to overplaying his hand in attack, was asked on Wednesday about rugby-obsessed New Zealand's aversion to him possibly scoring the winning points to dump their All Blacks out of the tournament.
"That would be a tough one for them (New Zealanders) to swallow, but I'm sure they have a lot more things to worry about than myself," he said ahead of Sunday's match at Eden Park.
"They've supposed to have won this World Cup for the past three tournaments and this is no different. There's a lot of pressure on them to win this competition on their home soil."
Pundits have put Cooper's hesitant performances down to incessant media scrutiny and booing crowds.
But New Zealand-born Cooper, 23, said he hadn't been affected and just wanted the best for his team rather than personal accolades.
"It's a packed stadium and you can hear the noises in the crowd and obviously I know they're directed at me from what everything that has been written (in the press) but it's not a distraction, it's just part and parcel of the game," he said.
"We are the closest enemy to New Zealand, so we're going to cop it more than any other team.
"They can do whatever they want. I am not going to try and control anybody else's life, I'm just going to try to do what I can to be the best I can be for this team.
"Having a good game is going to play second fiddle to winning the game. I don't care if I have a shocker and we win it as a team."
Cooper received support on Wednesday from an unexpected quarter in New Zealand back Sonny Bill Williams.
"I've been in touch with him, he's a good mate, but on the pitch it's a different story. I want to win for New Zealand and he obviously wants to win for Australia," former Australian National Rugby League star Williams said.
"Us being a proud rugby nation, we see him as the enemy, so to speak, but I think he's handled himself pretty well.
"It's a kind of a sign of respect when people are hitting on him that much, it just shows how much of a talent he is."
Meanwhile Australia flank Rocky Elsom insisted Cooper had brought a lot to the squad.
"As much as you (the media) beat up the issue around Quade, one thing that's been glaringly obvious is that Quade's focus is on the team and we've definitely benefited from that.
"We certainly value what he adds to our team and we're looking forward to him doing that for a long time to come."
Former Wallaby captain Elsom also tried to pile the pressure on the All Blacks, with the New Zealand public desperate to see their side end a 24-year wait for a second World Cup title.
"The situation is not only are they expected to win this match, but then the next one as well, there is a helluva lot of expectation.
"They are the number one ranked team in the world and they are in a country where they expect them to win the World Cup," Elsom added.
"So regardless of what happens the public expect that and you get a feeling around town that they won't tolerate anything less."