Cooper will return 'better'
Sydney - Wallabies captain James Horwill believes injured flyhalf Quade
Cooper will return a bigger and better player after being so heavily
scrutinised at the Rugby World Cup.
Horwill and coach Robbie Deans fronted the media at
Sydney Airport on Saturday night after the squad returned from New Zealand
following their bittersweet victory over Wales in the play-off for third
A scan on Sunday will determine whether Cooper needs an
operation after his right knee gave way in the 20th minute of the 21-18
triumph. The Queenslander was thought to have suffered an interior
cruciate ligament injury. It brought a cruel end to a tough tournament
for the New Zealand-born Wallaby, who locals targeted from the stands.
While Horwill predicted Cooper would be an even better
player for the experience, he defended his pivot from the suggestion he
may have had some "chinks" exposed under pressure. "I don't know about
chinks," Horwill said on Saturday night. "Obviously, it was pretty well
documented . . . the external stuff that was going on but, internally,
he was as Quade is, and a lot of people don't sort of realise that.
"I think it was a minority of the public doing it,
because any time we walked around New Zealand there was more people
stopping Quade and asking for autographs and photos than I've seen of
any footballer. The New Zealand public were very hospitable towards us
and Quade in particular."
Second-rower Dan Vickerman and centre Pat McCabe could
also need operations, while the availability of fullback Kurtley Beale
and back-rowers Wycliff Palu and Rocky Elsom for the two-match northern
hemisphere tour starting next month were under a cloud.
Horwill expected that Cooper, like the entire squad,
would gain a lot when he reflected upon the lessons of the World Cup
"You learn probably more from things you don't succeed in than when you do succeed," he said.
"Quade certainly would've learnt a couple of things from
this, and also got a bit of a setback, obviously, now with this
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans praised Cooper's resilience,
saying he won over the Kiwi public by carrying himself with dignity
despite the taunts. "He carried himself impressively," Deans said. "He
didn't lower himself, and I think it was appreciated in the long run."
Deans wasn't surprised to have come under harsh
scrutiny after Australia were bundled out of the cup. "When you don't
win, you don't ultimately do what you set out to do, then everything
comes under scrutiny and, potentially, all the decisions that were made
were flawed," he said.
"I'm not [satisfied] – we went there with aspirations of
winning, so we're not happy to that end, but I'm proud of the effort the
boys put in."
Horwill said he had learned a number of tough lessons.
"World Cup is a different kettle of fish, being my first World Cup I
noticed that," he said. "You need to execute when you get the
opportunity, and that's something we probably didn't do a lot in this
tournament . . . when we did get opportunities we let it slip and let
teams off the hook.
"I think the defensive effort and the pride we showed in our line was an outstanding effort as a group."