McKay insists Cooper provides the spark
July 8, 2011
The Reds will look to Quade Cooper for inspiration on Saturday in their final against the Crusaders © Getty Images
Reds backs coach Jim McKay has played a key part in the franchise's outstanding season but has refused to take the credit for Quade Cooper's stellar campaign.
McKay was brought to the Reds by coach Ewen McKenzie and despite his lack of coaching credentials in Australia, has proved to be instrumental in the run to the brink of a first Super Rugby title of the professional era.
The 44-year, who used to work at Leicester's academy, is charged with constructing moves from set-play but has played down his role in the Reds' brilliant semi-final performance against the Blues. Rod Davies' second try in that match was straight from the training paddock with Davies being set up by a perfectly-executed Cooper cut-out pass and decoy runner.
Despite the tactical nature of the try, McKay is adamant much of the Reds' stunning play is down to star fly-half Cooper's instinct. "I can't take any credit for his skills," said McKay. "As a coaching team you can only support him in what he does. You're just hoping he does more good things than, shall we say, things that cost us. All we can do is encourage him to play what he sees and support him around that. There is some science to it but some of the things he does are …. just Quade."
Cooper modelled himself on Carlos Spencer when he was running around the backyard in Tokoroa but now the 23-year-old is invariably compared with his rival on Saturday, All Blacks and Crusaders pivot Daniel Carter. McKay played down comparisons between the two world-class tens.
"We try not to draw comparisons because all the players are very different," McKay said. "We just look at Quade and how much he can improve. Carter's at a different level on the experience scale but Quade's really improved his game management."
Question marks were raised over Cooper's temperament in front of the posts following a return of just three from seven attempts against the Blues in the semi-final. Coach McKenzie, however, has no concerns over his fly-half's ability to place kick in a pressure situation. "Everyone misses kicks," McKenzie said. "He was five from six in his previous match. Quade works hard at it but that is just one part of the game. I think you'll find he was part of a few tries against the Blues."
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