Carter and Cooper finally cross paths
October 29, 2010
Dan Carter wants to make amends for his last appearance against Quade Cooper © Getty Images
It's the fly-half showdown the rugby world has been waiting for, and Dan Carter and Quade Cooper can't wait to lock horns in Saturday's fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Hong Kong.
Cooper's first meeting with the All Blacks was delayed in this year's Tri-Nations after he was suspended for a dangerous tackle in Australia's first match against South Africa.
Carter lead New Zealand to two victories over Australia in Cooper's absence and by the time Cooper returned for the third clash between the sides and his first taste of Bledisloe Cup action, Carter had pulled out of that Sydney encounter to get ankle surgery.
Despite being very much the senior and more established of the pair, Carter has unhappy memories of the last time he faced off with Cooper. The Queensland Reds blitzed Carter's Crusaders 41-20 in this year's Super 14 tournament, with Cooper central to that result.
Given that Cooper has only experienced one of the ten-match losing streak the Wallabies hold against the All Blacks, that being the narrow 23-22 defeat in Sydney, the No.10 is relatively unscarred by that record and represents the ray of light for an Australian team looking for answers to their trans-Tasman failures.
An upbeat Cooper said he was looking forward to finally matching wits with Carter at test level: "It's exciting to play against the best fly-half in the world, I've been waiting for a long time."
Carter said he was relishing the chance of a rematch after the Suncorp Stadium result went against him, and revealed the All Blacks were targeting Cooper and scrum-half Will Genia as the key cogs in the Australian machine.
"The last time I came up against him he was fantastic, he split our defence open with a lot of his plays. If he gets good front foot ball and gets that's combination working with Will (Genia) he's a very dangerous player. I'm really looking forward it. He's an exciting young talent, he's got a lot of attacking flair. When you're defending it's very dangerous because he's a great stepper and runner of the ball. He's also a great distributor ... you never know who he's going to pass to.
"They were the two form Australian players in the Super 14, and therefore you'd imagine they would continue doing what they've been doing when they go to the higher level. A lot of their (Wallabies) plays are going off No.9 and 10. That stands to reason as they come from Queensland. They are the drivers of the plays, so it makes sense that they do something that they know works for them.
"If you can upset them at set piece then it takes away a lot of (Cooper's) time and his plays," Carter said. "That's the key and then obviously it's not getting too wide on each other defensively because he's got the ability to sidestep. If you're nice and tight you tend to pick him up. You have to limit his time and space."
Meanwhile, Wallabies prop Ben Alexander said he was relishing the chance to return against the world's best pack on his return from a serious knee injury suffered during Australia's June internationals.
"I'm feeling good, absolutely ready to rumble. The fitness is as good as it's ever been," Alexander said. "I think it's good to come back against the best. Straight away I'll know we're I'm at and what I need to work on. The All Blacks are the best side in the world for exposing your weaknesses so if I have any they'll find it. They give you less room for error at scrum time when you're a tighthead. If you make any slight mistake they're the best at exploiting it and punishing you."
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