His critics have their knives out for him but under-fire Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper says he did his job in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup mauling in Auckland.
All eyes were on Cooper to see how he would respond to coach Michael Cheika’s controversial decision to throw him into an Eden Park furnace where he has flopped twice before.
While the 27-year-old didn’t exactly crumble, he did earn a yellow card early in the second half that handed New Zealand the chance to assert their dominance on the game.
They did so emphatically, running in two tries while the Wallabies were a man down to set up the 41-13 victory, keeping the Bledisloe Cup on the other side of the Tasman for yet another year.
Cooper didn’t re-enter the fray and was replaced by Kurtley Beale but said he was happy with the remainder of his performance.
“I feel that I did well,” Cooper told reporters after the match.
“I did the job I needed to do in terms of controlling the team around while I was out there.
“I was disappointed with not being able to stay out there for the whole game but that’s the way it’s gone.”
Cooper was sin-binned for his unintentional high shot on All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, who had escaped the clutches of the Wallaby defence and was set to score New Zealand’s second try in the 48th minute.
Referee Nigel Owens blew for a penalty try and then gave Cooper his marching orders – much to the delight of the 48,000 parochial All Blacks fans in attendance, who revelled in each of his mis-steps.
“Aaron Smith, he’s a good player. He managed to bust the line and we just needed to make that tackle. We scrambled back and I got penalised for that,” Cooper said.
Asked if he was disappointed not to have returned to the field, Cooper said: “Of course you always hope to go back on but I understood at that stage, I’d been sitting in the bin for 10 minutes, I’d cooled right down.”
Cooper said the jeers of the crowd didn’t bother him.
“It’s professional sport. The crowd hasn’t got anything to do with it,” he said.
“My mindset had blocked that out. I’m accustomed to training to that now. I expect that.”
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika jumped to Cooper’s defence after the match, brushing aside suggestions he may have gotten his team selection wrong.
“The start of the game, that initial period, was when we were looking our best in attack,” he said.
“I thought he put us in good position early on and made some good plays and led us around the park well, until he had to leave the field.”