Quade Cooper’s fellow Wallabies have leapt to his defence after former All Blacks coach Graham Henry called him the team’s “glaring weakness” at last year’s World Cup.
In his recently released biography The Final Word, Henry said: “Quade Cooper was plainly the weakest link. Coach Robbie Deans had taken him out of the front line because he was a suspect tackler. He doesn’t lack heart but defending is not his area of strength.”
The ex-coach said dropping New Zealand-born Cooper back weakened Australia’s back three in both a positional sense and for kicks in the air.
But Cooper’s team-mates rebuffed suggestions they would be reluctant to play beside him.
Winger Drew Mitchell said the five-eighths had proven himself to his teammates and that was all that mattered.
“They’re the ones you want to convince, and when times get tough you want to make sure the bloke you’re playing next to knows you can do the job,” he said.
Mitchell added that players weren’t motivated to get the blessing of an opposition coach.
Fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper said Cooper was a player with great ability.
“Playing with him is always exciting. There’s a lot of unpredictability around his game,” Ashley-Cooper said.
New Zealand-born Cooper had a difficult run in 2011 where he bore the brunt of Kiwi hostility at the Rugby World Cup.
Henry led the All Blacks to win the world crown, and his book’s release coincides with Cooper’s return to the Wallabies after suffering a season-ending knee injury during the bronze medal final and other complications along the way.
Wallabies Coach Robbie Deans was unimpressed with Henry’s attack.
“I haven’t read his book,” he said.
“Quade’s in the squad, he’s returning to the game, he’s working hard at that. He’s a bloke that’s played fairly in the past and he will in the future.”
And it seems the squad’s refusal to take Henry’s bait has trickled down to the man in question himself.
Yesterday Cooper tweeted to over 600,000 followers: “Determination to succeed against all the odds = attitude.”