Wallaby Cooper dreams of putting All Blacks over a barrel

While it may be too early to talk of defining moments for the Wallabies and their flyhalf Quade Cooper,...

Queensland Reds and Australia rugby union player Quade Cooper at a press conference in Cape Town on 5 April 2011. Picture: Aletta Gardner/Eyewitness News

While it may be too early to talk of defining moments for the Wallabies and their flyhalf Quade Cooper, there is no doubt that this weekend's All Blacks clash will be a searching examination of their credentials.

Cooper and his team mates left their Gold Coast training camp on Wednesday and crossed the Tasman Sea for the Tri-Nations test in Auckland, where on Saturday they hope to become the first Australia team to win at Eden Park since 1986.

Much of the Australian optimism that a third World Cup triumph could be on the cards later this year is founded on the talents of the backline directed by Cooper, who was born 23 years ago in Waikato and moved to Brisbane as a teenager.

Despite the prospect of taking on the World Cup favourites in his first test match in the country of his birth, Cooper has no intention of reining in the freewheeling style that has won him so many admirers at home and abroad.

"That's the philosophy of the game that I like to play and I'm not going to change that game just because we're playing at Eden Park against the All Blacks," he said.

"I'm going to go out there with the same mindset with a good group of guys around me."

That group includes his halfback partner Will Genia, the outstanding player of the southern hemisphere season so far, as well as fellow twenty-something backs James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale.

All four are blessed with pace, sublime handling and footballing skills as well as a supreme confidence in their ability to, as Beale put it this week, "tear any team apart".

What Cooper uniquely brings to the mix is his unpredictability, particularly when he drifts seemingly nonchalantly across the pitch in front of the defensive line.

His influence was missed when the Wallabies were shocked by Samoa in their season opener and he was a significant force in the two matches he has played against the All Blacks, a narrow defeat in Sydney and a last-gasp win in Hong Kong in 2010.

BEST TEAM

The 39-20 hammering the Wallabies doled out to a weakened Springboks team in their first Tri-Nations test was another advert for his ability to fire his backline.

It was put into some perspective when the All Blacks beat the South Africans 40-7 in Wellington last weekend, though, and Cooper is certainly not underestimating the task.

"We are up against the best team in the world," he told Brisbane's Courier-Mail. "It's going to be massive and a challenge hopefully we can overcome."

Having helped hoist the Queensland Reds from cellar dwellers to Super rugby champions in the last couple of years, Cooper knows what it takes to beat sides with big reputations.

The Reds prevailed in two tight contests against the All Blacks-laden Canterbury Crusaders this year, the latter of which secured them the title.

Something else he has learned from the Reds campaign, and has had reinforced by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, is to achieve one goal before focusing on another.

So although a Wallabies win on Saturday would have Australia dreaming of a World Cup triumph at the same stadium on 23 October, Cooper would be happy to move closer to a first Tri-Nations title in a decade and the chance to wrest back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.

"We don't want to think too far ahead. If you do we'll lose sight of the goal in front of us and that's to win as much silverware as possible," he said.

"Hopefully, at the end of the road we can look at the cabinet with a Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup and, if all things pan out, a World Cup."