Quade Cooper spared an awkward round
Wallabies and Reds pivot Quade Cooper. Photo: Getty Images
Quade Cooper's dodgy knee is likely to prevent him playing a rather awkward round of golf with Robbie Deans on Friday but he has found the most unlikely of allies in his critique of the Wallabies coach – none other than Richie McCaw.
Deans is scheduled to play in a Think Pink charity golf day at Hope Island, organised by Fainga'a twins Ant and Saia, to help raise money for breast cancer research.
Cooper was also slated to pick up the clubs, but it is understood recent surgery on his knee could stop him from teeing up the little white ball. It might also circumvent an inconvenient meeting with Deans, which you suspect would have taken place with tumbleweeds rolling past and everyone whistling to themselves.
The injured playmaker insists other Wallabies share his views about the toxicity of the Wallaby ecosystem but, as yet, none have been willing to pipe up. After a face-saving win over Argentina, it's unlikely any will come out of the woodwork next week as the Wallabies prepare for the October 20 Bledisloe at Suncorp Stadium.
And so it came to McCaw to give some credence from way, way out of left field to Cooper's concerns about the methods of Deans, the former Canterbury coach who was overlooked for the All Blacks job in favour of Graham Henry.
It was like Batman stopping to help the Joker change a tyre on the side of the freeway.
In his new book, which also squarely takes aim at his arch-enemy Cooper, the All Blacks captain details the reasons he supported Henry over Deans when he was asked about who should get the top job in New Zealand rugby.
“Robbie doesn't appear to want to be challenged by his assistants and won't allow the kind of full-on debate that Ted [Henry] encourages with Smith and Hansen,” McCaw wrote.
“Robbie's approach is to say, 'This is what we're doing,' then convince people that's the way it's got to be. He's very good at that.
“But when you look at the record of Robbie's assistant coaches, there's quite a lot of turnover and fallout. Robbie's intransigence and reluctance to delegate might have been a factor… if you look at the names of some of Robbie's assistants. Colin Cooper, Vern Cotter, Don Hayes, Todd Blackadder.
"It's tempting to draw the conclusion that if Robbie gets a strong assistant coach, the assistant won't last, and if he gets one that lasts, he's not that strong.”
Rest assured any support McCaw may have given to Cooper was purely accidental. He didn't miss the Reds star in his book, saying he believed the infamous knee to the head in Brisbane was deliberate.
“There was a bit of post-game controversy around Quade Cooper's attempt to knee me in the head as he was extricating himself from a ruck,” McCaw wrote.
“The intent of what he was trying to do pissed me off more than the execution. Shortly after that happened, I was carrying and should have passed, but I lit up and I saw Quade standing in front of me and clattered into him instead.
“I was disappointed in myself doing that, letting it get personal. There's no need – players like Quade get sorted. Sooner or later they get their beans.”
Cooper's outbursts was dismissed by many as the rantings of a squeaky wheel unable to cut it in Test rugby. He had denied that was his motivation and McCaw's evaluation of Deans may give some cause for reconsideration.
At the very least, McCaw's comments about Deans were more far more pointed and specific. Given his God-like status in New Zealand and lofty place in world rugby, they carry significantly more weight.
It will be an intriguing week for Deans and the Wallabies in Brisbane before next Saturday's Test. Cooper is unlikely to be part of any official Wallabies functions or events but his name will still be on everyone's lips as the Australians and All Blacks prepare in the Queensland capital.
The Wallabies have been in South Africa and Argentina for the entirety of the Cooper saga but will face more questions when they return home to more intense media scrutiny.
Questions about Cooper and McCaw aren't likely to be warmly welcomed by the Wallabies and the ARU will be hoping discussions centre on matters on the park, not about the future of the coach or state of the game.