Sunday August 28, 2011 Source: Reuters
Australia coach Robbie Deans breathed a sigh of relief today after playmaker Quade Cooper was cleared by a match review panel.
Cooper had been cited for dropping his knee into Richie McCaw's head during the Wallabies' 25-20 win over the All Blacks in Brisbane last night. The second-half incident in Saturday's occasionally ill-tempered match at Lang Park sparked a quick remonstration from the All Blacks, who later accused the flyhalf of landing a number of cheap shots in matches past.
Cooper was suspended for two matches in last year's Tri-Nations after lifting South Africa's Morne Steyn in a dangerous tackle at Lang Park and the Wallabies went on to lose both of their games against the All Blacks without their mercurial flyhalf.
While ensuring Cooper will start the World Cup, the decision is unlikely to rest well with the All Blacks camp and won't help frosty relations between the flyhalf and the All Blacks skipper.
"I'm just very grateful and happy for a fair hearing and I'm just looking forward to getting on with rugby and focus on the World Cup," Cooper told reporters from the team's hotel in Brisbane. "It's a contact sport and blokes are going to come into contact with each other and it's a matter of just getting on with the game."
Cooper has been criticised for a lack of respect after being involved in a number of exchanges with McCaw and pushed the flanker's head into the ground after the winning try in the Wallabies' Bledisloe Cup win in Hong Kong last year.
McCaw pledged to get even with Cooper within the rules of the game and the animosity spilled over into the players' provincial clashes in the Super rugby season. The mercurial flyhalf's antics had started to get under some of the All Blacks' players skins.
"Apparently it was more than once, anyway," All Blacks loose forward Victor Vito said of the dropped knee. "Some of the guys are starting to say that sort of stuff about him but at the same time if a guy plays that way there's not much we can do but only enforce our game plan." Cooper brushed off the criticism, but said future clashes between he and McCaw were inevitable.
"Everyone's entitled to their opinion," he said. "I just respect them as a team ... I think there's a lot of focus on us anyway.
"Richie's a flanker and his job is to slow down our ball and do anything he can to disrupt our momentum and my job is obviously to keep our team on the front foot and keep the momentum."
Deans said the citation was a warning for his players to stay disciplined ahead of the World Cup.
"I've a had a couple of little digs (at Cooper)," he said, grinning at the player standing by his side.
Australia play their first match against Italy in Auckland on Sept. 11 before further group matches against Pool C sides Ireland, Russia and the United States.