Representative Honours: Australian Under 21s 2004-2005, Australian Sevens 2004, Australia A 2006, Australian Wallabies 2005-present
Senior Tours: UK, Ireland & Italy 2006, RWC (France) 2007, Hong Kong & Europe 2008, Japan & Europe 2009, Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, England & Wales 2011, Europe 2012, UK/Europe 2013
Stalwart outside back ADAM ASHLEY-COOPER is in line to become Australia’s next representative to play 100 games for the Qantas Wallabies, with the NSW Waratahs talent entering 2014 on 91 Test caps.
In the history of Australian Rugby only five players have reached the prestigious 100-game milestone, while Ashley-Cooper is also part of an elite group of players to have recorded 50 wins for the Wallabies, a landmark he reached against Italy in 2013.
The upcoming Test season is again shaping up to be a year to remember for Ashley-Cooper. Currently, only David Campese (8) has scored more tries for Australia against the All Blacks, with Ashley-Cooper equal with Matt Burke on 7.
He also sits in equal first as Australia’s highest try-scorer in the Rugby Championship, sitting alongside Stirling Mortlock and Lote Tuqiri with nine tries. His impressive try-scoring ability was none more evident than in 2013 with Ashley-Cooper crossing the try-line four times, including the memorable match-winner in the second Test against The British & Irish Lions.
Ashley-Cooper played an integral role in the highly anticipated series, playing in all but four minutes, before then becoming a permanent fixture within Ewen McKenzie’s matchday squad, starting in 14 out of a possible 15 games for Australia in 2013.
Considered the ‘Mister Fix It’ of the Australian backline, Ashley-Cooper has spread out his 91 Tests across the centres, wing and fullback. He fulfilled all three roles in a 2012 season where he missed just two of the 15 games played by Australia which was some achievement given the horrendous injury toll experienced by the side. As it was, one of the games Ashley-Cooper did miss, against Argentina at Rosario, was a result of the injury he sustained while making a try-saving tackle the previous week against South Africa at Pretoria.
While Ashley-Cooper doesn’t remember that tackle, all of Australia remembers one that he had made a month earlier in the first Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate Test of the year, where he had shepherded two South African attackers towards the sideline and then bundled them both into touch with the goal-line beckoning. Such commitment is typical of ‘AAC’, who was the only member of the Wallabies to play all 13 Tests in 2011. A year earlier, he had made his maiden appearance for the Barbarians during the win over South Africa at Twickenham before returning 12 months later to be Australia’s man of the match during the record 60-11 drubbing that the Wallabies administered to the prestigious British festival club.
Ashley-Cooper’s busy 2011 saw him become the only player to feature in every minute of a full Rugby World Cup campaign of seven matches. He scored seven tries in that time, which made him the tournament’s second most prolific try-scorer. That included three in an eight-minute period during Australia’s 67-5 win over the United States at Wellington. Not only was that the first hat-trick of Ashley-Cooper’s career at any level, the three tries gathered between the 58th and 66th minutes of that match represented the fastest hat-trick in Rugby World Cup history. It was also just the 26th instance of an Australian scoring three or more tries in a Test match.
Earlier in the season, Ashley-Cooper had scored his eighth try in Tri Nations during the win over South Africa in Sydney. Only three Australians scored more in the 15 years of that competition – all scoring nine.
Ashley-Cooper became the 35th Australian to surpass a half century of Test appearances during the Wallabies win over Italy in Florence in 2010, and then ended that Test year by winning the team’s internal Player of the Match award in the 59-16 thumping of Six Nations champions France in Paris. Ashley-Cooper opened the scoring in that match with Australia’s first try. It was his fourth of the Test season – only four players in the team scored more. This followed on from the five he contributed in 2009; the most memorable of which came against England during the Cook Cup success at Twickenham. Australia was recording back-to-back wins at the ground in consecutive years for the first time; with Ashley-Cooper bagging tries in both games.
The Ashley-Cooper versatility has not just been a feature of his Test career. He also regularly featured from three different positions – centre, wing and fullback –for the Brumbies in Super Rugby, and has served the NSW Waratahs in a similarly versatile manner since he relocated to Sydney.
Although he made his debut in Perth nine seasons ago, Ashley-Cooper had to wait until 2007 for his first Test try, which came during his maiden Test start, against the All Blacks at the MCG. His debut against South Africa at Perth in 2005 came about in unusual circumstances when, having been called into the squad as a replacement, he was then called out of the crowd to sit on the bench, after Elton Flatley injured himself in the warm up. Ashley-Cooper came onto the bench, being required to take the field in an un-numbered jersey two minutes before the end.
Ashley-Cooper was a late-comer to Rugby, taking up the game as a 15-year-old while living on the Central Coast in NSW. He is the nephew of the PNG-born ex-Wallaby Graeme Bond. The family descends from the sixth Earl of Shaftsbury, Cropley Ashley-Cooper (1768-1851). The Earl represented Dorchester in Parliament for 21 years and was a descendant of William the Conqueror.