Ashley-Cooper's return would inspire Aussie youngsters: Foley

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Adam Ashley-Cooper returning for a crack at World Cup selection would provide an inspiring example for young Australian players, believes Wallabies no.10 Bernard Foley.

The Waratahs confirmed last week they're in talks with Ashley-Cooper about the 34-year-old coming back from Japan for the 2019 Super Rugby season.

With the Japanese league in hiatus, Ashley-Cooper is keen to try and make a record-equalling fourth Rugby World Cup squad with the Wallabies. 

George Gregan is the only Wallaby to have played at four World Cups.

When those NSW negotiations are finalised is not known but there is speculation Ashley-Cooper could be a surprise call-up to the Wallabies for the upcoming Spring Tour.

Cheika is due to name his tour squad on Thursday and Ashley-Cooper, who has played 116 Tests and currently plays alongside Dan Carter at Kobe, is not expected to be in it. 

But the veteran utility is due to meet Michael Cheika when the Wallabies fly into Japan at the weekend, and under Giteau Law, could be drafted if injury issues require it. 

The Wallabies are hoping Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani will be fit to join the Wallabies' Spring Tour, but neither have played for months. 

Reece Hodge has played no.13 this year but centre options are otherwise limited; Jordan Petaia is a strong chance to tour but is only 18, and reports have suggested Curtis Rona may miss selection. 

Matt Toomua's workload is also being monitored by Cheika and may be used sparingly.

Foley is a long-time friend of Ashley-Cooper, having played together in the 2014 Waratahs side that won Super Rugby and in the Wallabies for several years.

The Australian no.10 said he is unaware of the status of Ashley-Cooper's talks with NSW but Foley is an enthusiastic backer of the idea, and says his experience and leadership would be invaluable.

"I have played a lot of footy with 'Swoop' and he is the ultimate professional, with the way he prepares and the way he gets himself and his body right," Foley told RUGBY.com.au.

"That can only be a positive thing for the young guys in the squad to be exposed to, if he were to come back.

"That effect would filter down to the guys; for them to know what they have to do each week to perform at the very best of their potential."

It's understood Ashley-Cooper would return on a bargain-basement contract at the Waratahs, and not get any top-up money from Rugby Australia.

Adam Ashley-Cooper has only defeated the All Blacks five times in his career. Photo: Getty ImagesBut there have been criticisms that Ashley-Cooper would take a spot that should be given to a young player.

That's a flawed argument, believes Foley. 

On and off-field, he believes Ashley-Cooper's influence and example would only be valuable. He last played for Australia in 2016.

"To me, it shows how much pride he has in the Australian jersey," Foley said.

"He has done just about everything. Played over 100 Tests, a few World Cups and then gone overseas. And yet he values the Australian jersey so much he wants to come back and give it a go at wearing it again, and that's massive for young guys seeing that level of pride in the jersey. 

"That can only be a good thing for Australian rugby."

The ultra-reliable form and attitude of Ashley-Cooper would be very welcome at the Waratahs, Foley said.

"Each and every day is that consistency from Swoop. You know each and every day what they're going to bring," Foley said.

"He turns up and performs at the same level each and every week, trainings and games. So in big games and in those big tournaments, you know what a guy like that is going to deliver. They have the runs on the board. Consistency and the ability to do it over and over again, that's not easy.

"That calming effect he would have on our side, and being a consistent performer and leader each and every day, that would translate onto the field each week.

"We probably rode the rollercoaster a little bit this year. When we were good we were very good and then there were games when we were poor and let ourselves slip.

"That's our work-on, and a guy like Swoop, who has done it for such a long time, he can come back and be a positive effect on us and our team."