Veteran eyes unfinished business with Wallabies

Adam Ashley-Cooper is pushing for a Test return. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Adam Ashley-Cooper is pushing for a Test return. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

VETERAN Adam Ashley-Cooper says winning his first World Cup rather than playing in a fourth is the driving force behind his remarkable return to the Wallabies squad.

The 34-year-old is training with the Australian squad in Wales and looks set to add to his 116 Test caps this weekend in Cardiff, having not worn the gold jersey since August 2016.

Ashley-Cooper was recalled to squad by coach Michael Cheika, who is seeking the outside back's versatility and leadership qualities amid a season of seven losses in 10 games.

With outside centre options Reece Hodge and Tevita Kuridrani ruled out of the tour with injury, Ashley-Cooper will battle Samu Kerevi for the No.13 jersey on this trip.

Kerevi made a successful return from his arm injury in the last Test defeat against the All Blacks and will likely start against Wales, but Ashley-Cooper would be a handy bench option given he can cover every position from inside centre wide.

"When Cheik rang a couple of weeks ago, I was in Japan playing Top League, he discussed the potential of coming back into the squad and coming on tour and I told him I'd jump at the opportunity," Ashley-Cooper said.

Adam Ashley-Cooper playing for the Kobelco Steelersin Japan. Picture: Getty Images
Adam Ashley-Cooper playing for the Kobelco Steelersin Japan. Picture: Getty Images

"Coming back in was really exciting for me and it's good to be back in the environment. It's been a couple of years but I'm pretty stoked to be here.

"It's not so much [about playing in] a fourth World Cup, it's to win a Rugby World Cup.

"I've had three cracks so there was still a bit of fire in the stomach post-2015.

"I moved overseas to France and I came back to Japan but still with that goal and ambition to win a Rugby World Cup because it was still there.

"I wasn't expecting to come on tour - there's opportunity and there could be the possibility of Super Rugby next year to get to that world cup but apart from that I wasn't expecting to come on tour."

Ashley-Cooper is expected to announce a one-year deal with NSW Waratahs for 2019, where he will rejoin midfield partner Kurtley Beale.

"His experience speaks for itself," Beale said.

"To have a player like him among our young guys, who are still growing to be at this level, is great.

"He is world class on and off the field. I think it's a great addition and good to have a mate around it's exciting and he has some goals to reach out for and a lot of the boys are really excited to have him back."

Meanwhile, Wales' British and Irish Lions hooker Ken Owens and flanker Ellis Jenkins have been declared fit for the clash against the Wallabies.

Owens suffered a broken nose during the 21-10 victory over Scotland last Saturday, and Jenkins, who missed the win over the Scots, has recovered from a shoulder injury.

Owens was on the receiving end of a hefty collision just before half-time against Scotland.

He then underwent a precautionary head injury assessment, and another one after the game, passing them both.

And Jenkins, who was co-captain for Wales' successful two-Test tour of Argentina earlier this year, will add to the back-row selection mix.

A place on the bench, though, could be his role with Wales head coach Warren Gatland expected to retain a starting back-row of Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Ross Moriarty.



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