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Graham comes to Quade Cooper’s defence

QUEENSLAND Reds coach Richard Graham says the sport of bagging Quade Cooper's defence is over after backing him to play in the front line against a powerful Waratahs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

While tackling stats in rugby are as rare as Israel Folau dropping a kick, Graham said yesterday the door was closed on whether Cooper's defence was up to scratch following his five-from-five strike-rate in the frontline in last weekend's 27-17 upset win over the Brumbies which got the Reds' 2014 Super Rugby campaign off to a great start.

Former Wallaby coach Robbie Deans punished Cooper by leaving him out of last year's British and Irish Lions Test series because of concerns over his frontline defence. But Graham said the flamboyant flyhalf (pictured) had addressed his issues through hard work.

"Strip it back to the bare statistics and he defends well. I am going to defend him in the frontline and defend him there with confidence," he said.

"I toured with him in 2009 with the Wallabies when he played No.12 and he defended really well on that Grand Slam Tour and he's kept going forward since."

Waratahs fullback Israel Folau's three-try clinic against the Western Force at the weekend dominated talk in the Reds camp.

"What's important when you play a guy like Izzy is that he is only in the game when you let him be in the game," Graham said.

"You're not going to keep him out of the game, let's be realistic, so we have to control his entry points."