x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Australia fly-half Cooper turns heat on New Zealand

Public expects nothing less than Rugby World Cup triumph from the All Blacks, says the Wallabies player.

AUCKLAND // Quade Cooper, Australia's maverick fly-half, did little to quash his status as New Zealand's "public enemy No 1" as he cranked up the pressure on the All Blacks ahead of Sunday's Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Cooper, who was born in New Zealand, has been subjected to a barrage of terrace abuse throughout Australia's campaign due to a long-running spat with Richie McCaw, the All Blacks captain.

However, the 23 year old insists the barracking has not been a distraction and said pointedly that New Zealand fans have greater things to worry about.

The All Blacks have not lifted the Webb Ellis Cup since 1987 and have failed to reach the World Cup final at every tournament since 1995.

And Cooper agreed it would be "a tough one for them to swallow" if he was to inflict further World Cup misery by scoring the winning points at Eden Park this weekend.

"They are supposed to have won this World Cup for the past three tournaments and this is no different," Cooper said.

"A lot of pressure is on them to win this competition on home soil so I am sure they will be worried about how they are going.

"These are the moments you play rugby for, an opportunity to play against the best team in the world in their back yard in a World Cup semi-final."

Rocky Elsom, the Australia flanker, waded in behind Cooper to drive home the Wallabies' message that all the pressure is on All Black shoulders.

"They're the No 1-ranked team in the world and they're in a country where they expect them to win the World Cup. Regardless of what happens the public expect that," Elsom said.

"You get a feeling around town that they won't tolerate anything less."

Cooper could have been lining up for the All Blacks this weekend had he taken up the option of returning to New Zealand as an 18 year old.

"There was a time in my career where I had to decide whether I wanted to come play on this side of the Tasman," Cooper said.

"I had been living in Australia for such a long period of time, my whole family had moved over, I was enjoying my lifestyle. It was a very tough decision to want to move away from my family again and I was just starting to make a career with the Queensland Reds.

"I decided that was the best fit for me."

Australia are still sweating over the fitness of Kurtley Beale, their fullback who suffered a hamstring injury and did not train on Wednesday.

Sekope Kepu, the prop, is also struggling with an ankle injury suffered in the Wallabies' quarter-final win against South Africa.