MARC HINTON 28/08/2011
LATEST: A relieved Quade Cooper says there's no bad blood between he and All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw after the Wallabies captain had a citing for foul play in last night's Tri-Nations final dismissed.
Coper had to front a Sanzar judiciary in Brisbane this morning and had the charge dismissed after a worrying night mulling his future in the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Cooper appeared to knee McCaw in the head in the 54th minute of last night's game won 25-20 by the Wallabies to end a 10-year Tri-Nations title drought.
The pair had been tangled up in a ruck and as Cooper got to his feet his knee appeared to strike McCaw on the head. All Blacks lock Brad Thorn immediately responded by taking Cooper to the ground, sparking a minor dust-up between the two sides.
The talented Wallabies No 10 admitted he was relieved to have the charge dismissed and his way cleared to take part in the World Cup.
"I'm just grateful and happy for a fair hearing and looking forward to getting on with rugby and focusing on the World Cup," said Cooper straight after the hearing and a quick decision.
"It's one of those things the process has been done and I'm happy to get a fair hearing."
In terms of any potential bad blood between he and McCaw on the back of an incident late in the Bledisloe match in Hong Kong late last year, Cooper moved to play down any suggestions of a simmering feud. He said he was just "trying to get to the next play.
"There were bodies everywhere. It's a contact sport, blokes are going to come into contact with each other. It's a matter of just getting on with the game and trying to keep myself involved in the game," he said.
"I don't see any history there. It's rugby, blokes come into contact belting each other week-in, week-out. It just so happens two blokes are coming into contact more often than not."
Cooper was asked about suggestions from the All Blacks camp he was becoming a "cheap-shot artist".
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," he said. "I respect them as a team, they're a great team, they're not the No 1 team in the world for no reason. I enjoy every opportunity I get to play against them."
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said he was relieved to have his key playmaker available for the entire World Cup.
"Obviously it's a load off Quade's mind and ours," said Deans. "The World Cup only comes round once every four years… it would have been a tough pill to swallow."
Deans said the incident sends a clear message to all players they need to tread on the right side of the game's rules.
"Absolutely. That's' what they're there for. The game is bigger than all of us," he said. "You've only got to look last night. There was a next generation of kids watching and it's important the way you play the game is something we're proud of."
Certainly the whole affair adds a bit of interest to the next time the All Blacks and Wallabies tango. It may well be in the World Cup final.
And then McCaw will be hoping to have the final say in what has fast become a fairly bitter feud.
McCaw said he didn't know the intent of Cooper's shot, but made his displeasure pretty clear on a night when New Zealand ignominy at the famous Queensland stadium was complete.
The Blues and Crusaders had both come up short there at Super Rugby time, and now the Wallabies have secured their most notable result in the Robbie Deans era.
"I didn't see it. I felt it," said McCaw after the match in front of just under 52,000 fans. "I don't know whether it was intentional or accidental. I guess someone else will decide that."
But McCaw had no doubts about where the All Blacks came unstuck, as they wasted a glorious comeback from 20-3 down that saw them level at 20-20 with still the final quarter remaining. In the end, one last Wallabies response, via Will Genia's break and Kurtley Beale's finish, saw a massive second-half effort from the New Zealanders come up short.
"We were beaten to the punch in the first 20 minutes especially," said McCaw. "We struggled to get our game going. They had more intensity than us, and got the momentum. We managed to turn it around but we were pretty disappointed to have started like that and have to come from behind.
"It's going to be a good wee lesson.
"The two games against the Wallabies have shown there's very little between these teams, and it's the mental state you turn up in and how you apply yourself. That's the difference. In the first half we just got beaten to it."
McCaw said the early loss of Kieran Read to an ankle injury had been a blow, but was part of the game. More of a concern had been the inability to adjust to Australia's early fury at the breakdown and in their rushing defensive line.
Instead of steeling themselves, the All Blacks fumbled, dithered and slipped off tackles as the Wallabies ran rampant.
"You've got to apply yourself and everyone has got to do it individually," he added. "When you turn ball over at the tackle, passes don't go to hand, kicks get charged down and tackles get missed ... that's pretty simple.
"We were talking about it during the first half but sometimes you go into halftime, take a deep breath and come out. We would have liked to turn it round after two minutes when we realised we were on the receiving end, but it didn't happen like that.
"We've got to make sure we are on the job right from the word go."
McCaw felt the All Blacks allowed rampaging 35-year-old No 8 Radike Samo to be a factor in the match and his biggest disappointment was that his men weren't able to finish the job they started, as they clawed back to 20-20 with so much time remaining.
"I thought the composure of the guys in adapting in the second half was pretty good," said the skip. "I guess it's a good wee reminder if you want to win big test matches you've got to start well.
"We've had two lessons of that against the Wallabies the last two times. We had the upper hand the first time and didn't get it this time. That's the learning we've got to take out of it."