Australia coach Robbie Deans has backed harassed Wallaby playmaker Quade Cooper amid the 'unwarranted' attention he received in Australia's failed World Cup campaign in New Zealand.
The Wallabies were blasted out of the tournament by the dominating All Blacks 20-6 in Sunday's semifinal as the hosts set up a final, also at Eden Park, this coming Sunday against France.
Mercurial flyhalf Cooper has been cast as a 'villain' since arriving in New Zealand six weeks ago for his past needling of much-admired All Black skipper Richie McCaw.
New Zealand coach Graham Henry chided Cooper after his All Blacks overwhelmed the Wallabies by saying: "I think Quade has brought a wee bit of that on himself. You've got to earn some respect and he lost some respect from previous actions."
Former Wallaby fullback Matt Burke, a 1999 World Cup-winner, said Cooper's performance on Sunday was so bad he should have been substituted before half-time.
But Deans again spoke up for his misfiring flyhalf, saying he was impressed with how 23-year-old Cooper had handled the suffocating scrutiny and that it had not affected his performances at the World Cup.
"There has been a lot made from something that's pretty small really when you look at it in the light of the whole game," Deans said
"That's tough for a young man. Whether he has warranted all that is a moot point but I guess the key thing for Quade is moving on.
"I've been very impressed with the way he's carried himself because clearly a lot of the dialogue has been unwarranted and it's easy for people who really have no knowledge of the man to take a pop shot."
Despite two flustered performances against the Springboks and the All Blacks when he made continual errors, Deans said the incessant attention had not played a part in New Zealand-born Cooper's eventful first World Cup.
"I don't think it has affected his performances at all, to be honest," the Kiwi coach insisted.
"The whole playing group has been under pressure, the whole group has made errors, it's just a fact that his (Cooper's) errors are attributed to a sideshow.
"He's made significant strides to get better on and off the field. He's come an enormous distance off the field and I have nothing but respect for the way he has carried himself."
But Burke said Cooper was fortunate to see out Sunday's match.
"He dropped high balls, he missed tackles, he got smashed," Burke told Radio Sport here on Monday. "He had wrong options, he kicked out on the full. It was just error after error, which made the game easier for the All Blacks.
"I feel sorry for him. I thought he should have been pulled (replaced) after about 25 minutes.
"Mind you, he went through to the very end and he showed a lot of courage and conviction to play.
"It's all well and good to have that, but you need to be able to execute at the same time."
Cooper said after Sunday's elimination he would leave the World Cup an improved player for all the unwelcome attention he'd received.
"Everyone is trying to get at me personally. I think I'm definitely going to be better off for it," he said.
"I got used to it and I think I grew a lot of confidence out of it. I'm not in a position to point fingers about that or have a cry about it.
"I am who I am. I'm going to play the way that I play and whether you like it or not, that's me."
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