Cooper: Wallabies have 'character to be best'
The Wallabies are building the character needed to take them to the top of the world rankings in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup.
A buoyant Quade Cooper, named man of the match and players' player in his 50th test, made that bold statement after the Wallabies secured four wins in a row for the first time in five years with a gutsy and scintillating performance against Wales in Cardiff.
"We want to be the best in the world, we're not hiding that, but we know that that path is a long and a tough path," he said.
"I think we have the character in this team to do that. There's a lot of people who have faced a lot of adversity in their careers, a lot of injuries, a lot of form slumps, and a lot of guys in and out of the team.
"We're building the right culture to be a world-class team, that's what we're aiming at, and hopefully I can continue to be a part of that, it's something I'll keep working at."
If Cooper's performances continue to improve on the trajectory he has taken since returning to the Wallabies fold this year, he will most certainly be a part of it in 2015.
After a 12-month roller coaster of injury and exile from test rugby, the five-eighth has taken little time to establish himself as both the anchor and orchestrator of Australia's reinvigorated attack.
He set up the Wallabies' opening try in their 30-26 victory and produced vintage sleights of hand to bamboozle Wales and delight the 67,400-strong Millennium Stadium crowd, before a controversial yellow card forced him to fume from the sideline as Australia held on for dear life to claim the match.
"When I got it I was sitting on the sideline so filthy with myself; I didn't want to let the team down," Cooper said.
"But it's a sign of a good team - when we're under the pump and the pressure is on and everything is going against us, everybody pulled together and lifted a little bit more than they had to and they put that little bit extra, which I think got us the win in the end."
His performance drew high praise from Australian captain Ben Mowen, who said his deputy was "outstanding" on the field and a leader off it.
"Not many people can execute that in touch footy in the backyard, let alone at the Millennium in those sorts of circumstances," Mowen said.
"You can't say enough about what sort of bloke Quade is and what contribution he's made in the last the period and the growth he's shown.
"He's turned into an outstanding leader and when he's performing, generally the team's performing very well."
Cooper was ably assisted by close friend and halves partner Will Genia, who produced arguably his best effort this year.
Christian Leali'ifano also made crucial contributions throughout the match, standing up in defence and taking a 20-point haul with a try, three conversions and three penalty goals.
But there was no one who didn't step up on Saturday. Despite a raft of penalties and some over-eagerness in attack that led to at least three clear try-scoring opportunities being squandered, the Wallabies' defensive efforts in the final 15 minutes of the game required every player to put their bodies on the line.
The late run of wins has levelled the ledger to six wins and six losses under McKenzie, or nine wins from 15 for the entire season.
Cooper said the team had exceeded their own expectations at the back end of their five-test tour.
"I feel this tour has put us ahead of where we thought we would be. We've made a lot of things [happen] that we didn't think were possible as a team, in terms of culture," he said.
"With all the things that have happened on the tour - the wins, the loss [to England] at the start, some of the things that have happened during the Ireland week - everyone's pulled together tight and we've come out the other side a bigger and better team.
"I know that those things will put us in a position to be the best in the world."
Sydney Morning Herald