Rivalry of the week: Cooper vs O’Connor

James O'Connor vs Quade Cooper

Who will get the upper-hand in this week’s match-up, which sees Wallabies Quade Cooper and James O’Connor go head-to-head.

Mercurial Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper will take on fellow Wallaby and close friend James O’Connor when the Reds met the Rebels in Brisbane on Saturday, 1 June 2013.

The Reds got one-up on the Rebels in the last encounter between the two teams in March, however, the Rebels have now see back-to-back wins against the Stormers and Waratahs, and will be full of confidence going into the encounter.

The match-up between the two Australian playmakers will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the match, but who will have the upper-hand this time?

O’Connor has been seen as the preferable flyhalf for the Wallabies, as expressed by Robbie Deans, giving him some backing from the Wallaby selectors, however, the 22-year old is coming off the back of a chest injury he sustained against the Blues, and will need to front up against the unpredictable Reds.

The two flyhalves are relatively similar in terms of speed and agility, and both have the fancy feet to cut through a defence. However, where O’Connor shines is in his strength and his ability to bring the attack up and onto the ball. His defence is a strong point too, rarely missing a tackle, despite the infamous bump-off from Rene Ranger in Round 13.

On the other hand, Cooper’s defence has been questionable over the last season, with the flyhalf slipping into the fullback position on defence, and missing a few important tackles while there. On the plus side, Cooper has the ability to make something out of nothing, which is often a match-winning piece of magic, or a move that puts his team under tremendous pressure.

His kicking game is often superior to any flyhalf he comes up against, and his rabbit-out-of-the-hat approach to playing has often rewarded the Reds this season. His sudden grubbers and quick change of positioning makes him difficult to mark, as Cooper will often switch from going right to left (or visa versa), opening up gaps and making opportunities for the outside backs.

Watching the battle between the two should be on everyone’s to-do list this weekend, and Cooper could see the meeting as an opportunity to win over Wallabies’ coach Robbie Deans, while O’Connor will want to show everyone why he is considered the man to take on the Lions in the no. 10 jersey.

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