Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper was ”unlucky” to miss out on the British and Irish Lions series and holds the key to Queensland’s Super Rugby hopes, says All Blacks and Chiefs No.10 Aaron Cruden.
”He’s a fantastic player, obviously he’s got that X-factor and that unpredictability,” Cruden said. ”I think that’s what makes him so hard to defend and mark.”
Despite his difficult World Cup campaign in 2011, Cooper has been in good form in his trips across the ditch this year, linking well with No.9 Will Genia in the 34-33 win against the Highlanders in Dunedin and most notably in the 31-23 success against the Chiefs in Hamilton. That Cooper performance, in which his kicking game was strong and he sold Cruden a nice dummy to score under the posts, remains one high point in a season in which the good has been mixed with the inaccurate.
It is an 80 minutes that is still fresh in Cruden’s mind.
”He had an outstanding game against us earlier in the year,” he said. ”I think he was pretty unlucky not to be involved in the Wallabies mix, but for whatever reason the coaches decided to go with some other players.
”He’s going to be a real threat, especially if the Reds get a bit of momentum. And you never know what’s going to happen in Christchurch [when the Reds play the Crusaders] over the weekend.
”He’s just one of those guys you hope you can shut down but he’s just so unpredictable that you’ve got to be ready for whatever he’s going to throw.”
A Reds win against Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and co would set up a second trip to Hamilton this year for the Queenslanders and prolong Ewen McKenzie’s reign, although the continued injury-enforced absence of midfielder Anthony Faingaa (hamstring) will harm their chances. Just as significantly, the Reds and the Brumbies are coming to terms with getting back into the rhythm of Super Rugby after the British and Irish Lions series, and Cruden could empathise with the difficulty of that task. ”We [the Chiefs] probably haven’t been at our best since coming back from the international break [a series against France],” Cruden said. ”It can be quite difficult.
”You’ve just got to try and adapt and get back into the groove as fast as possible. Sometimes it’s really hard getting back to the familiar calls of what team you are actually playing for and mentally it can take a bit of a toll on you as well and obviously physically, if you are putting your body through a bit of hurt week in and week out. The most important thing is trying to get back into the groove.”
Cruden also gave an insight into the Chiefs’ enduring relationship with Sonny Bill Williams, which clearly will be a factor in the Rooster’s mind as he weighs up his options for next year and 2015.
Williams was at the Blues v Chiefs game in Auckland last weekend and Cruden was delighted they could celebrate winning the New Zealand conference with the dual international.
”It’s really nice,” Cruden said. ”All the boys got to know him last year when he was here with the Chiefs, and he’s such a great guy. He had a bit of time off and came back to New Zealand and it was awesome to see him in the changing rooms [after the game] and chew the fat and have a good yarn with him. It was good for all the lads.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.