Horwill backs Cooper as a physical defender
October 4, 2013
Quade Cooper was left on the outer after comments about a 'toxic' environment © Getty Images
The Wallabies will look to an unlikely player in Quade Cooper to help bring some physicality to their Rugby Championship Test against Argentina. Ahead of their clash with the Pumas in Rosario on Saturday, Wallabies skipper James Horwill said five-eighth Cooper was now more than a "one-trick pony".
Long considered a mercurial attacker but a dubious defender sometimes hidden in the defensive line at fullback, Cooper stood up against the Springboks in their Test last weekend, which the Australians lost 28-8. "I personally thought he had a fantastic game for us," Horwill said. "He brought some physicality to his defence. He put a big shot on (Jean) De Villiers and knocked the ball loose. He is working hard on trying to change his game and saying he's not a one-trick pony who plays that razzle-dazzle."
A year ago the playmaker was on the sidelines after labelling the Wallabies a "toxic" environment, but Cooper has turned his attitude and his game around. "Quade has probably copped a lot of flak publicly about certain things," Horwill said. "He's a talented footballer, and his attitude to everything has been really good since we came into camp. To me he is a guy who always works incredibly hard at what he does."
With halfback Will Genia promoted back into the starting side alongside Cooper, it's hoped the tight combination gives the team a much-needed confidence boost. The Australians are desperate to avoid the wooden spoon with a win at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito stadium and finish their first series under new coach Ewen McKenzie on a high.
Horwill said the prospect of captaining a side to last place wasn't something he wanted to entertain. "It is not something I want to be labelled with, or that we want," he said. "So we need to win and not let that happen."
While the Wallabies recognise they need to front up against the passionate Pumas, they are aware of the cost of pushing it too far. Against the Springboks French referee Jerome Garces handed out four yellow cards and Horwill said his side couldn't afford to be ill-disciplined.
"There has to be an aggression side to things ... but referees are very, very quick to get guys off the field for stupid stuff," he said. "The amount of cameras and the fact they can review it nowadays, you're putting your life in their hands so to speak. With 14 men, the statistics would favour the team with 15 to score points. You don't want to be under that pressure so you have to be aggressive, but you don't want to be stupid."
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