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Quade Cooper in the firing line for stoush with Waratahs

Rising stock: Quade Cooper.

Rising stock: Quade Cooper. Photo: Getty Images

Reds coach Richard Graham says it's time to end the debate about Quade Cooper's defence as the five-eighth continues to improve on one of the most critically analysed aspects of his game.

The Reds showed impressive defensive intent as they knuckled down against the Brumbies and that collective effort will be tested further against the Waratahs, who poured 43 points on the Western Force on Sunday.

While players like Lachie Turner produced try-saving efforts, Cooper operated without fanfare in the front line, amassing five tackles and missing none as the Reds surged to a 27-17 victory.

With the impressive Aidan Toua proving to be a highly dangerous returner of the ball from fullback as well as being armed with a sturdy left boot, Graham said Cooper's days of defending behind the line were now behind him.

Graham said he would deploy Cooper in the trenches against the Waratahs with complete confidence as the Reds try to knock over both of their Australian conference arch rivals on the road within their first two matches.

"You shoot back to bare statistics. He defends well. I'm going to continue to defend him in the front line and play him there with confidence," Graham said.

Cooper's defensive frailties have been crucial to any number of selection debates at Wallaby level. Robbie Deans put it front and centre when he left Cooper out of the squad to face the British and Irish Lions on account of his perceived weakness in the front line.

Ewen McKenzie often played Cooper at fullback for tactical reasons, which was at odds with Deans' demands as national coach. Cooper has put the case beyond doubt now after working diligently on his technique over the past 12 months.

Graham said Cooper went forward leaps and bounds last season as he compiled an 80 per cent tackling effectiveness score for the Reds.

"I toured with him in 2009 for the Wallabies. He played number 12 and I thought that year he defended well. Certainly last year I thought he took a step forward in defence," Graham said.

"He continued on and in the game the other night, I think he was 100 per cent, a clean sheet."

Cooper won't be the only one to be put under the defensive microscope against the Waratahs given the impact of Israel Folau against the Force.

The league and AFL convert looked more comfortable than ever as he scored three tries. His name was on everyone's lips as the Reds began preparations for their traditional derby.

Will Genia said Folau looked good and would only get better, saying he couldn't believe how quickly the Tahs fullback had adapted to the 15-man code.

"I honestly didn't think he was going to be as good as he is," Genia said. "It's incredible how quickly he picked up the game.

"I think he can get better. He's got that remarkable thirst to want to be better and there's areas he wants to improve."

Genia said he would likely shelve the box kick and spend most of the night booting the cover off the ball to ensure Folau has to play deep and not get attacking opportunities mid-field.

"We'll look to kick long," he said. "We won't kick contestable kicks to Israel because we know he's going to catch them 99 per cent of the time."

Graham said he would be trying to devise a plan to limit Folau's opportunities in the game. But he admits it's going to be difficult to keep him quiet all evening.

"I think it's important to control his entry points. You're not going to keep him out of the game. You have to try and control the way he influences the game."

17 comments so far

  • The Reds forwards had a high workrate throughout the match against the Brumbies and it was good to see. When they took the title in 2011, it was that workrate which provided time and space to the halves and therefore confidence to attack. I'm just wondering whether their forwards will be able to keep that workrate up for the entire season, there should be a lot of management of forwards in order to keep the forward pack competitive. Nobody wants to relive the Crusader play-off disaster of last year when the Reds forwards were absolutely bullied off the park. I think this should be their focus for the season. Hanson and S. Faingaa can be nicely rotated, same with Horwill and O'Donaghue, Slipper and Daley, Quirk and Robinson etc. I'm still worried about the Reds' tight five. I also think that when matches are already won, Genia and Quade should be taken off to build confidence of replacements. Certainly they can't be overplayed again this year (which led to their injuries and dip in form).

    I'm very pleased to see Anthony Faingaa back in action.

    Commenter
    Rouaan
    Location
    Cape Town
    Date and time
    February 24, 2014, 8:11PM
    • Pretty fair comments Rouaan. Having a decent scrum this year will help the Reds enormously. It's a long time since Ben Daley kept his back straight in a scrum. The last time was against Dan Palmer of the Brumbies and he destroyed him. Daley can end up being better than his father, once he fully believes he can. Quirk, Schatz, Gill, Browning & Robinson (who despite being a cockroach epitomises QLD) can form a lethal, exhausting combination if they keep pushing the pace. But accuracy is paramount. Losing Cooper shouldn't worry the Reds either as Ben Lucas was 10 when the Reds thrashed the Chiefs last year. Tapaui needs to come to 12. He and Toomua both have the ability to be the best two 12's in the world. Harris needs to channel Stirlo at centre. You know it makes sense Richard. Welcome to the sunshine Lachie Turner. I didn't realise how bad the vibe was in NSW that made you play so badly there. Probably the old poisonous Robbie Deans influence yeah ?

      Commenter
      johnny-boy
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 10:45AM
  • Meanwhile, in a more brutal contest, the second string all black fly half made 15/15 against an all black stacked crusaders side. Cooper clearly isn't looking for work on the D

    Commenter
    TheDiff
    Date and time
    February 25, 2014, 8:47AM
    • Perhaps the Brumbies failed to get their attack sufficiently organised to make him make those tackles. They played shocker. Holding position is more important than chasing a tackle, as Dwyer's piece on GAGR shows. I'll be surprised if we don't see Palu running at Cooper, and maybe a few others too. At least these days he's committing his body, even if he gets pushed back he slows them down. Have to say that I wasn't/am still not the greatest fan of Cooper but you have to admire the way he's been approaching his game and his place in the team. Can't ask for more.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Kiama
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 2:21PM
    • He is smarter than that. He is an attacking player who wins games. You don't did that being at the bottom of a ruck.

      Commenter
      Old_Laurentian
      Date and time
      February 25, 2014, 7:38PM
    • Or the Brumbies didn't run much at the fly-half.

      Especially considering that the Brumbies 1) played a kicking game and 2) attacked via the wings and full back

      Commenter
      Ruckin' Oaf
      Date and time
      February 26, 2014, 11:41AM
    • Considering that the Brumbies kicked a lot, and attacked mainly via the wings and fullback it could be that there just wasn't much defensive work in the fly-half channel.

      Commenter
      Ruckin' Oaf
      Date and time
      February 27, 2014, 7:54AM
    • The diff - Cooper made 5 tackles & missed none. If the opposition is not running in his channel who should he be tackling? Cruden made 15 tackles as the crusaders were attacking down the 10 channel. I agree that Cruden is a better defender as his technique is very sound however. He goes low & drops the ball carrier. Cruden knows he is not a big hitter & doesn't try to be one. Cooper seems to try & make big tackles when a taking the legs is the better option.

      Commenter
      Shane D
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      February 27, 2014, 3:29PM
    • Meanwhile, TheDiff is off to hospital to have a massive chip removed from his shoulder.

      Commenter
      Danno
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      February 28, 2014, 3:21PM
  • I'm a Tahs fan to the core but even I wouldn't dare discount the Reds. It's only the second game, so the BIG thing for me is for the Tahs to stick with THEIR game plan, trust our systems, and do not allow ourselves to get distracted. Come on the Tahs!!!!!

    Commenter
    Blinky Bill
    Location
    Bellingen NSW
    Date and time
    February 25, 2014, 10:50AM

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