Rugby World Cup 2011: Quade Cooper ready for All Blacks

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer in Takapuna, North Island
Quade Cooper in relaxed form as he talks to the media on Wednesday
Cooper was in relaxed form as he talked to the media on Wednesday

Under-fire Australia fly-half Quade Cooper insists he is ready for the biggest game of his life despite his poor showing in the World Cup so far.

Cooper will go into Sunday's semi-final against New Zealand expecting a barrage of abuse from the Eden Park crowd.

He had struggled for form in the quarter-final win over South Africa.

"I'd rather walk off the field as a winning team than walk off having the greatest game of my career and losing the game," said the 23-year-old.

"My head was fine after the game - I was as happy as Larry sitting in the changing room. I don't care if I have a shocker and we win as a team."

Cooper was jeered by some New Zealanders in the crowd in Wellington last Saturday, and was called a "boofhead" by the Wallabies' 1991 World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jonesexternal-link recently after taunting Richie McCaw during the countries' Tri-Nations encounters and escaping punishment for kneeing the All Blacks skipper in the face.

"You hear noises in the crowd and obviously I know they are directed at me from everything that has been written, but it's not a distraction," insisted Cooper.

"It's part and parcel of the game. We are the closest enemy to New Zealanders so we are going to cop it far more than any other [team].

"They [the fans] can do what they like. I'm not going to try to control anyone else's life. I'm going to do what I can to be the best I can be for my team.

"These are the moments you play rugby for - playing the best team in the world, in their own back yard, in a World Cup semi-final. It doesn't get any better, and you have to take a moment to think how privileged you are."

Former Wallabies winger David Campese has been among those critical of Cooper's performances in New Zealand so far.

But Cooper, who was born in the same North Island town as All Blacks Keven Mealamu and Richard Kahui and only moved to Queensland as a 13-year-old, laughed off the criticism of Campese, his country's record try-scorer.

"Coming from a guy like that? I think I'll take the advice of my team-mates and my coaches that I have around me rather than outside influences," he said at a crowded news conference on Wednesday.

"Cheers for the advice Campo, but I've got a lot of guys around me that are supportive."

Cooper will line up against the All Blacks' third choice fly-half Aaron Cruden, after both Dan Carter and his replacement Colin Slade suffered tournament-ending groin injuries.

Cruden was not in the original New Zealand squad, but Cooper insists the Wallabies do not see him as a weak link.

"I'm sure he was training hard, knowing that there was a possibility he might be coming in, and I'm sure all his team-mates are doing everything they can to help him," he added.

"He's a very good player, great on his feet, with a very good kicking game, and he poses a lot of threats across the board. I don't see myself as having the upper hand on him."

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