Rugby World Cup 2011
Irish will not target Cooper
Quade Cooper (AFP)
Auckland - Ireland on Tuesday said they had
no special plans to muzzle game-breaking Australian flyhalf Quade Cooper
despite his dismantling of Italy, as they contemplate a daunting pool game
against the World Cup's form team.
Backs coach Alan Gaffney said it would be a
mistake to single out one player in the Wallabies' richly talented back line,
which cut loose with three second-half tries on Sunday along with an opening
score from prop Ben Alexander.
"He's got exceptional skill levels,
he's got fantastic vision and obviously very, very good pace. A very, very good
player, world class and a very difficult player to handle," Gaffney said
"(But) right across the board the
Australian back line (have)... got so much potency in what they can do. So we
won't be concentrating on any one particular player, we've got trouble across
the board there."
The unpredictable Cooper was at the heart
of Australia's opening Pool C win as he laid on tries for Adam Ashley-Cooper,
James O'Connor and Digby Ioane - who will miss Saturday's match in Auckland
with a broken thumb - and kicked two penalties.
But Gaffney said Australian scrumhalf Will
Genia was also in "outstanding" form, while fullback Geordan Murphy
said Australia had enough talent at their disposal to absorb the loss of
influential winger Ioane.
"We realise Genia is in absolutely
outstanding form. I can't speak highly enough of Genia, he's just a special
player," Gaffney said.
"I think he is extremely important to
Australia and I've got a lot of respect for Luke Burgess also. Right across the
board for Australia there's just a lot of threats there."
Ireland endured a woeful World Cup build-up
of four straight defeats, and confidence was not boosted by their unconvincing
22-10 victory over unfancied the United States in New Plymouth.
Backrow forward Denis Leamy said Ireland's
strategy was simply to close down Cooper as a team rather than deploy
individual players, which could leave gaps in their defence.
"He's a very instinctive player and he
plays very much off the cuff," Leamy said.
"It's important that we keep our
system and stick together and make sure that we shut him down as a unit and try
not to bring any individual out of line, because that's where he'll make you
Number eight Jamie Heaslip also said
Ireland planned to "draw a line in the sand" with the Australian
pack, which has made vast improvements over the past year.
"I think to create momentum and space
for our backs we're going to have to carry the ball hard and run at them, and
then on their ball be very physical on the line and win the battle of the gain
line," Heaslip said.
Gaffney said Ireland had been working to
eradicate their glut of handling errors, and were trying to improve their
decision-making by "putting players under enormous amounts of
pressure" in training to make the right move at the right time.
And centre Gordon D'Arcy insisted Ireland
retained strong belief they could register their first World Cup win against
the two-time champions.
"I believe fully across the board that
we can match Australia and beat them. But they're still the form team coming
into the Rugby World Cup," D'Arcy said.
"They are a very good team. It would
be foolish to say otherwise. But we can't put them on a pedestal, we've got to
look at them like any other team that we've ever faced and just go out and beat
Ireland have not ruled any players out of
Saturday's game although heavyweight prop Tony Buckley has a badly bruised
shoulder and Murphy missed training on Tuesday with a slight hamstring strain.