Cooper v McCaw

Quade Cooper's hopes of a return to the Qantas Wallabies ranks for the upcoming Rugby Championship will be given the most severe test this weekend when he faces a returning Richie McCaw in the Super Rugby play-offs. [more]

Cooper v McCaw

Quade Cooper’s hopes of a return to the Qantas Wallabies ranks for the upcoming Rugby Championship will be given the most severe test this weekend when he faces a returning Richie McCaw in the Super Rugby play-offs.

His Queensland Reds side travel to Christchurch to face the Crusaders, where they will be  looking to overturn a six-match losing streak. The timely return of All Blacks skipper McCaw, who took a six month sabbatical form the game, is bound to give the home side a boost.

Newly appointed Wallaby head coach Ewen McKenzie will be looking to Cooper, along with his return Test stars James Horwill and Will Genia, to run the show and put the 2011 champions into the semi-finals to face either defending champions the Chiefs or the Bulls.

Cooper led the Reds in their game against the British & Irish Lions, but failed to make the cut for the Test series. But with Robbie Deans having left the stage, and the Reds coach McKenzie set to take up the reins in August, Cooper must be in with a chance of a recall.

Before that can happen, though, he knows he will have to perform in hostile territory this weekend and measure up to the world’s best openside flanker. Cooper is expecting a rough ride from the Crusaders fans, but wouldn’t want it any other way.

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"I expect that every week. Nothing changes. We just played down in Waratahs and I take it I'm not the most favourable bloke down there either," said Cooper.

"It is what it is and that's part and parcel of rugby and rivalries in rugby. We've got a great rivalry with the Crusaders as a team. We played them in 2011 and managed to get the win. I'm sure that will add to the occasion."

The match will have a Test feel to it with 13 All Blacks – nine current and four former – in the Crusaders side up against a Reds team containing 14 Wallabies – six present and eight former).

The Reds haven't won in Christchurch for 14 years, although they have beaten all four New Zealand sides they have played this season and beat the Waratahs 14-1’2 at the ANZ Stadium last weekend. If they defat the Crusaders they will become the first Australian team to clean sweep all five Kiwi opponents.

The Brumbies host the Cheetahs in the other play-off game in Canberra on Sunday. It is the Brumbies’ first play-off game in Super Rugby since 2004 and they will need to play much better than they did last weekend when they lost out on second place, and an automatic semi-final slot, by losing 21-15 to the Western Force in Perth.

George Smith is set to return to the side for his first start since the third Test against the Lions, when he was forced off the field for five minutes after a heavy clash of heads with Richard Hibbard.
 

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