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'Embarrassed and disappointed': Cooper reflects on feud with 'favourite player' McCaw

By Finn Morton
(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was idolised by almost everyone who calls the small island nation home throughout his legendary career.

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But one Kiwi went against the status quo.

Rugby is a contact sport, and McCaw is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time due to his physicality, leadership and understandings of the rules.

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The two-time World Cup winning captain wasn’t a dirty player, not really.

But as the adage goes, don’t poke the bear.

Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper rose to infamy across the ditch more than a decade ago, as the New Zealand-born talent taught himself to a hate a player he’d also grown up idolising.

“That’s where all my run-ins with Richie McCaw and stuff sort of stem from. I’ve spoken to him since all of the issues and that but I idolised him growing up,” Cooper said on the latest episode of Bloke In A Bar.

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“To every New Zealander, that was the dude, and you just wanted to meet him. But now I’m playing for Australia.

“In the Australian locker room and stuff like this, everybody is the opposite, they just want to kill him and that.

“I’m like, ‘he’s my favourite player, him and Dan Carter.’ I kind of was like ‘I’ve got to develop this, I’ve got to hate him too.’

“In the game in Hong Kong, I clean him out and he’s on the ground.. I’m sort of standing over him and he just kicks off with his foot to get me off.

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“I was like ‘oh he kicked me.’ I sort of said a few words to him… In my head I just wanted to get him back.

“We ended up scoring the try that tied the game in overtime, and he made the tackle on (James) O’Connor as he was of falling over, and I came flying in and I gave him a shove. That’s what kicked that off.

“I have him a shove and said some words to him and then (Mils) Muliaina, a few other boys came in and pushed me off.

“In my head when I look back, that was just my emotion that I had built up to have some type of motivation against this guy.

“I remember walking off the field and I was so embarrassed and disappointed. I was like ‘how do I go and get a photo with him now?’

“It was a real weird situation.”

After a couple of heated moments during a thrilling test in Hong Kong, Cooper became public enemy No. 1 during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Cooper had become the villain that New Zealanders loved to hate, which led former All Black Jeff Wilson to ask the nation to “stop booing” the Australian pivot some years later.

Clearly, it was a tough situation for the Auckland-born first-five to be in.

Reflecting on his early days in Wallaby gold, Cooper spoke about finding his identity after turning his back on New Zealand and pursuing a career with the Wallabies.

“When I was young, the difference is that now I am Australian,” he added.

“If you get someone who is born in Greece and grown up here, they’re still Greek but they’re (also) Australian.

“That’s the thing with our country, and I guess where the Wallabies are at now… we’re actually really focusing on and appreciating the multiculturalism that we have here in Australia.

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“It doesn’t mean you can’t be Samoan or you can’t be Tongan, you’ve got to be one or the other… for me, I’ve sort of got to that same point where I’m like ‘I love watching the All Blacks.’

“When I watch the All Blacks I’m supporting them. When I play against them, well it’s a game.

“The more that I’ve worked on my own identity and who I am as a man, the easier that’s become because back then I actually didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t sure if I should be on that side.”

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