Friday 23 March 2018

Cooper targeting O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll. Photo: Getty Images
Brian O'Driscoll. Photo: Getty Images

Australia fly-half Quade Cooper has identified stopping Brian O'Driscoll and a better defensive effort as the keys to an Australian victory against Ireland at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

After a 'disappointing' 21-20 loss to England on the weekend, the Australians are understandably out for redemption, and Cooper believes shutting down international rugby's premier centre will go a long way to achieving that end.

Cooper, who played in the centres in Australia's 20-20 draw with Ireland at Croke Park last year, knows first hand the damage an on-song O'Driscoll is capable of and clearly believes it will take a concerted effort to stop the star No. 13.

"O'Driscoll is a special player and what he did to us last year was really penetrate for them and get them on the front foot," he said.

"Stopping their momentum through him will be a big key for us.

"It's not about one person following him, but the team as a whole connecting together and defending well for the whole game."

While the Wallabies pivot stressed the importance of a collective effort, fresh-faced Rob Horne will line up at outside centre to become the sixth different man to oppose O'Driscoll in his 10 tests against Australia.

Horne has shown signs of true promise in his start to top-flight rugby, but the talented Waratahs flyer had no problems admitting he still looked up to O'Driscoll

"Brian O'Driscoll's someone that's been one of the best centres of this generation.

"He's someone that I greatly admire and have always looked up to.

"For me he's the benchmark 13 and always has been, so it'll be a big night for me and hopefully I can get out there and perform well," said Horne.

The Wallabies have made just two injury-forced changes to the side that lost 21-20 against England, but while the team to face Ireland at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday looks the same on paper, coach Robbie Deans is seeking a much better performance after the 'disappointment' of defeat.

"We were hugely disappointed, because we gave some ground that we needn't have," he said.

"It's the whole group (that has to lift), we've all got to cue each other, because as soon as we have one man down, in terms of concentration and effort, you're vulnerable."

The absence through injury of Queensland stars Will Genia and Digby Ioane, has made way for the return of Luke Burgess at scrum-half while the versatile Adam Ashley Cooper will slot into the wing position.

The Cooper-Genia combination drew a lot of positive attention through the Super 14 season with comparisons to former great pairings, but the Wallabies fly-half assured that it would be business as usual and his game wouldn't change with Burgess delivering the ball.

"There've been a lot of comparisons this year, but we're just trying to be our own combination as a team, find our own identity as a team and keep moving forward," said Cooper.

"Both halfbacks are great players; they offer a great running threat.

"Burgo showed that against England in Perth and you've seen what Will's can do over Super 14.

"Having Burgo back out there is going to be no different. The defence is going to have to watch out for him and I'll just enjoy the fact that we're playing a Test," said Cooper.

Press Association

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