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Cheika brings mental edge says cooper

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

SPORTSFILE

Quade Cooper

Australia out-half Quade Cooper just thinks Ireland's Jonathan Sexton is "a class act."

The mercurial - some would say genius - Cooper has been making his way back from injury as New South Wales Waratah Bernard Foley has taken over the controls in gold.

While this has been happening, Sexton has been riding the waves of Ireland's Six Nations Championship to land a nomination for International Rugby Board (IRB) Player of the Year.

"He showed throughout The Lions series some of the best football he's played," said Cooper.

It is Sexton's refusal to standstill, his incessant pursuit of improvement that has him ranked as the best out-half of 2014, proven by the fact that he is the only ten on the IRB's five-man roster for personal glory.

"He always continues to get better. I've always enjoyed playing against him from a personal standpoint. For me, I love the way the plays for an Irish fly-half."

"He's not a traditional Irish fly-half, who sits in the pocket and kicks. He likes to run. He loves to have a few little trick plays.

"Being short-listed for the IRB Player of the Year is well-deserved," he said. "Hopefully, we'll get the best Jonathan Sexton on the weekend and we can overcome that."

Cooper has now come under the guidance of Sexton's former coach Michael Cheika in what has been a stunning shake-up of Australia rugby in the last month.

There was a time when Cheika couldn't get away from Sexton's requests for greater game time as Felipe Contepomi held sway at Leinster.

CROCKED

Then the Puma got crocked in the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster at Croke Park and Sexton simply took over.

There are many similarities between Contepomi and Cooper as free-spirited maverick men.

Maybe, the form of Foley, the man who doubles up as Cheika's club fly-half does not guarantee an umbilical link to Australia.

"This is a different opportunity for myself to learn under a new coach," added Cooper.

"Cheiks has got a lot of great ideas in his philosophy about rugby and the way he approaches each day is something that has been different for me.

"The way that he talks about the game, he's very passionate about being physical and I think that's shown in our training and the way we're going about training.

"It's very intense. It's very physical. There's no time to take a breath and I think that's what this team has to build, on the back of making sure we're a very hard team.

"We know where we're going, the identity of the team that we're all heading in the same direction.

"If we continue to do that, continue to follow his guidance, this team will be a lot better for it and each player, every individual in the team, will become better players under that guidance."

It took Cheika all of four years to transform Leinster from into kings of Europe in 2009. In his autobiography, Brian O'Driscoll alluded to how the the Randwick man added the steel they were missing all along.

"Mental edge is something that he talks about a lot," said Cooper.

"I think that mental preparation means each individual making sure that we're covering off everything during the week and not leaving anything to chance."

Whether Cheika can build in the edge from a narrow loss to France is anyone's bet.


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