Former Wallabies flyhalf Quade Cooper has revealed why he kneed All Blacks great Richie McCaw in the head.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the New Zealand-born Cooper spoke of the 2011 incident with former New Zealand Warriors player and close friend Isaac John.
Discussing the encounter with McCaw in the buildup to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, Cooper admitted to deliberately kneeing the former All Blacks captain in the face, and said he was not ready for the backlash he received for the act of foul play.
‘I look back at it now and I wasn’t ready for it,’ said Cooper, during The Ice Project podcast.
‘I had the expectation of 2011 of playing good football but now I had the pressure of all these guys hating me as well, and a whole country, not just the rugby public. The thing is, the stuff that happens on a footy field, that’s so small. I’ve been punched in the head, kneed in the head, all that stuff, but it was who you did it to.
‘Already, I was a Kiwi boy playing for Australia, so they were already hating on me to start with and then I go and knee the captain of the All Blacks, untouchable, in the head. That’s even worse.’
Cooper has received a frosty reception from many New Zealand fans ever since the incident, regularly being greeted by a chorus of boos whenever he has played in the country of his birth.
‘I walked into New Zealand for the World Cup and I’ve never been involved in anything like it. I couldn’t walk [anywhere], I couldn’t go anywhere,’ said Cooper. ‘I was on the team bus and there were signs, “I hope you break your leg, I hope you die in this game.”
‘I went from being well known to the most well known and the most hated. It was crazy.’
Cooper, who recently began his first season with Kintetsu Liners in Japan, also revealed that he has since approached McCaw and apologised for his actions.
‘A few years later I’ve seen Richie in the airport and I went up to him and said, “Sorry about that”,’ said Cooper.
‘It’s not that he didn’t care or he did care but, when I said sorry to him, I confronted it and said, “I really looked up to you as a kid, you were my idol, everyone in New Zealand loves you and I loved you, so when I played against you it was just emotion, passion took over, you were playing dirty on me and I kneed you.”
‘If I had my time again, [because] I know how to handle it now, I’d just say, “Yeah I did it, so what?”. Not “So what?”, but “It’s part of footy, it was a bad play but I did it”, so what could people say?’
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images)