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Knee injury ends bitter World Cup for Quade Cooper

Updated: October 21, 2011, 07:29

AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Quade Cooper's Rugby World Cup ended bitterly Friday when he injured his knee and was helped from the field after 21 minutes of Australia's third-place playoff against Wales.

Beset by a loss of form and confidence and harassed by hostile crowds, Cooper struggled to express his talent at a tournament which could have been his triumph.

The Wallabies playmaker who brilliantly led the Queensland Reds to the Super 15 championship this season was at a loss throughout the tournament to recover that form and that authority. He faltered under pressure when Australia lost to Ireland in the group stage and in knockout matches against South Africa and New Zealand.

Under slightly less pressure in Friday's playoff for third, Cooper seemed to have a new spring in his step. Playing more often at first receiver behind a Wallabies pack that was generally going forward, he showed some of his finer passing touches and an ability to bring runners into play.

He wasn't flawless. In the eighth minute and with Australia hammering the Welsh line from a penalty tap only five meters out, he threw a pass at the feet of center Adam Ashley-Cooper as he crashed into the line from depth.

Still, Cooper looked confident, sliding into half gaps around midfield, taking an exploratory step or two then attempting to work teammates into space. But in the 21st minute, carrying the ball in another Australian attack, he changed direction sharply, appeared to step and twist awkwardly and fell to the ground in pain.

He lay clutching his left knee before receiving on-field treatment from Australian medical staff, then being assisted to the dressing room.

The New Zealand fans who had harried Cooper so relentlessly throughout the tournament, booing his every touch of the ball, were suddenly contrite and he left the field to sympathetic applause.

"We don't have a medical opinion yet but having experienced it myself and having witnessed the event I suspect it's a ruptured,'' anterior cruciate ligament, coach Robbie Deans said. "Quade was okay. He's aware that it's a significant injury but with technology these days he'll come back good to go.

"You actually come back with a stronger ACL. He'll be back playing Super rugby but obviously that whole experience and that adversity will challenge him. But no doubt he'll come out of that stronger for it.''

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