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Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Cooper admits scrum-half pressure

Autumn internationals - Wales v Argentina
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 21 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Exclusively live on BBC ONE Wales and online, full commentary on BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and online, live text commentary online and score updates on BBC Radio 5 Live

Interview: Wales scrum-half Gareth Cooper

Gareth Cooper admits a poor performance against the Pumas could spell the end of his international career such is Wales' scrum-half strength.

Warren Gatland picked the Cardiff Blues number nine ahead of Dwayne Peel for the Argentina clash in Cardiff as Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips is injured.

Wales coach Gatland confirmed the "pressure is on Cooper to perform".

"I know I must train and play well this weekend otherwise it could be my last chance," Cooper told BBC Sport.

Cooper, who made his Welsh try-scoring debut against Italy in 2001, is currently second in Gatland's scrum-half pecking order behind Ospreys star Phillips and wins his 44th Wales cap against Argentina.

But Peel, the star scrum-half of the 2005 Lions Tour to New Zealand, seems to be over his injury problems and impressed in his 70th Wales cap against Samoa last week.

Gareth Cooper and Dwayne Peel congratulate each other
It is always a great rivalry for the scrum-half spot and at the moment there is Dwayne and Martin Roberts wanting the shirt who are both great opponents.

Wales scrum-half Gareth Cooper

Peel, 28, made his first start in a Gatland-coached Wales team for more than 18 months on Friday - since the Six Nations win in Italy in 2008 - but he could enhance his international aspirations by returning to play in Wales at the end of the season when his Sale Sharks contract expires.

Cooper started the opening autumn Test against New Zealand - when Peel was unavailable for selection because of a club v country dispute - and regains his place to play the Pumas.

"I'm delighted to have the backing off the coaching staff.

"I was really happy with my performance against New Zealand and am looking forward to playing against Argentina on Saturday.

"It is always a great rivalry for the scrum-half spot and at the moment there is Dwayne and Martin Roberts wanting the shirt who are both great opponents.

"We know we have to perform well when we have the chance otherwise we won't play again.

"It really does push you that extra step and you have to have an edge in training and an edge in the game. It does push you on to be a better player.

"There is a huge pressure individually to keep our place, there is huge competition for places in the squad and good strength in depth and everyone knows they must play at their best otherwise they won't be playing next week."

Gatland concedes who partnered Stephen Jones at half-back was a "very tight call" as both Cooper and Peel have not played much rugby due to their injury problems.

Gatland's close scrum-half call

"One of the decisions behind that is if Gareth to play against Australia we didn't want him missing for two weeks.

"He had a week off last week and was out of 22 against Samoa where Gareth worked hard on his fitness.

"I was pretty pleased with the way Dwayne played, he hasn't had many opportunities in the last couple of years given his unfortunate run of injuries. We know at Sale he hasn't always played regularly as well.

"For his first game we were pleased with his service and his control. Now pressure is on Gareth to give a good performance against Argentina."

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see also
Davies told to fill creative gap
18 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 33-16 Argentina
21 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Rees on firm ground against Pumas
18 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales v Argentina scrum war brews
20 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Shanklin out of Argentina clash
16 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Jones fears Peel return to Wales
15 Nov 09 |  Sale
England 16-9 Argentina
14 Nov 09 |  English
Wales 17-13 Samoa
13 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales 12-19 New Zealand
07 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Puma power: Argentinian rugby
16 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales v Argentina: Full record
28 Sep 06 |  Rugby Union
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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