Australia fly-half Cooper 'ready and prepared' for long road to recovery

By Sports Desk August 07, 2022

Quade Cooper says he is "ready and prepared for this journey" after suffering an Achilles injury during Australia's Rugby Championship 41-26 win over Argentina on Saturday.

The fly-half went down injured seven minutes into the second half after slipping while in possession, and grabbed for his left leg before leaving the field with support from medical staff.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie revealed after the game that Cooper's injury appeared to be "pretty serious".

The 34-year-old had only just returned from a strained calf that saw him miss the home series defeat to England, and faces a long lay-off just over a year before the Rugby World Cup in France.

Cooper took to Instagram on Sunday to thank his team-mates and medical staff, while vowing to support his team-mates from the sidelines.

He wrote: "Ready and prepared for this journey. Doesn’t mean it will be easy but I know I’ve prepared myself for the challenge ahead by building systems and habits to guide me through each obstacle on my path.

"Prepare for the storm so you are strong enough to endure it.

"Want to thank both my team-mates and the Argentinian players for their support and care when I got injured. My team-mates who continue to help me learn and grow each day I will miss you all but be supporting your journey as I continue mine.

"Our coaches for believing in me and continuing to push my growth. Our medical team who put so much time and energy into each and everyone of us."

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    The two sides will square off in the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022, with Louis van Gaal's Oranje having beaten the United States and Lionel Scaloni's Albiceleste having felled Australia.

    With three goals so far this tournament - and in likely his last visit to the World Cup - Messi has netted three goals and ignited an otherwise hit-and-miss Argentina side.

    As the forward pursues the biggest honour to elude him across his trophy-laden career, Netherlands fans might have hoped De Jong would know how to stop his ex-colleague, but the Dutchman says that is not the case.

    "No," he told ESPN. "I know him, but I don't know how to stop him. He's been making the difference for 15 years and there is not one way to stop him.

    "Usually he would still make the difference during training too. We just have to stop him as a team.

    Asked if he had spoken to Messi since their clash was confirmed, De Jong added: "We haven't texted each other. I am not planning to. We will see each other on Friday."

    Having joined Barcelona in 2019, De Jong was a member of the Barca team that claimed the 2020-21 Copa del Rey alongside Messi, with both scoring in the final.

    The latter was on hand when Argentina beat the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, before they were downed by Germany in the final, and De Jong is determined to ensure there is no repeat.

    "Argentina is of course a top team," he added. "But so are we. It will be a very good match, but I am confident. I think they look at us the same way. It's a 50-50 encounter."

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    Van Gaal's side reached the last eight with a 3-1 win over the United States on Saturday, while Argentina joined them by beating Australia 2-1 as Messi scored his first World Cup knockout goal.

    Friday's match will represent the sixth World Cup meeting between the two teams. Only two fixtures have been played more often at the tournament – Brazil versus Sweden and Argentina versus Germany (both seven).

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    "Of course, Messi is the most important player for them, the most creative. Those are always the most important players," he told De Telegraaf.

    "Eight years ago at the World Cup in Brazil, we succeeded well in neutralising Messi. He didn't hit a ball then. 

    "We thought we were the better team, but we eventually lost on penalties. I can't back it up with facts any more, but that's my memory. 

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    Excluding shoot-outs, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 11 World Cup matches as a coach (W8 D3). If the Netherlands avoid defeat against Argentina, he will equal ex-Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari's record of 12 games without defeat from the start of a World Cup managerial career.

    Despite criticism of the Netherlands' style, Van Gaal believes they have grown into the tournament after several players overcame fitness issues.

    "I believe in the team over the individual player," he added. "It is not the case that we have already achieved top form as a team. We can be much better, that's what I've always said. 

    "There is an upward trend. You should also not forget how we arrived with these 26 players. There were players who were not match fit. We had to build them up and so on.

    "Much of that is now behind us. Memphis [Depay] can now play 90 minutes, for example. More were sick, weak, or nauseous. That is getting better. 

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    The Australian was sacked nine months out from the Rugby World Cup after overseeing the nation's worst calendar-year record for over a decade, winning just five out of 12 Test matches.

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