Adam Ashley-Cooper has had a gnawing feeling hanging over him for more than two years will hopefully be satisfied on Sunday morning in his Wallabies return against Italy
Ashley-Cooper will start on the wing for the Wallabies in his first Test since 2016 and while it’s been a long time between matches, it’s been even longer between wins.
The 34-year-old’s last three Tests were all losses, and all to New Zealand, but now that he’s back he has a new appreciation for each match and a renewed determination to create a new narrative.
“I left Australia on not so great terms; losing the last three games, it was the Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks and the two Bledisloes in 2016,” he said.
“That feeling of unfulfillment and being quite dissatisfied in your own performance was always hovering over me, I was questioning whether or not I’d ever get the opportunity again.
“That on top of watching the guys over the last couple of years as an outsider looking in, 100 per cent I’m very grateful to be wearing the green and gold again.”
Ashley-Cooper’s Spring Tour inclusion is the first step towards his goal of a fourth Rugby World Cup berth, something that he put on Michael Cheika’s radar as early as the start of 2017.
“He (Cheika) never really gave me a hint, I was the one who engaged Cheik around my ambition of representing my country in a World Cup next year and potentially winning a Rugby World Cup,” he said.
“He was very open to that discussion, and I told him it was motivating me daily in Japan to train well each day, and play well each week.
“I guess he was quite surprised with where my head was at and my mindset. Off the back of that the thought has grown with him, and he got me to come on tour to see where I was physically and mentally.
“Off the back of the selection this weekend, evidently he’s been happy with what I’ve been able to contribute and how I’m performing in daily training.”
Ashley-Cooper’s 117th outing will move him up above long-time teammate Nathan Sharpe in the all-time caps list, a
While Ashley-Cooper feels in a way like he is debuting all over again, he’s just as excited to see what first-timers Jordan Petaia and Jake Gordon can do.
“I’m really excited to share special moments like debuts and milestones this weekend with guys like Jordan and Jake,” he said.
“As a senior player you always look back on those milestones you share with guys that you go on tour with who go on to play for their country.”
Gordon, along with Nick Phipps and Tolu Latu, was playing in the Shute Shield final only three months ago, not expecting to be in the Test reckoning on this tour.
“It was a childhood dream to play for the Wallabies, I look back now and I think playing all those minutes of rugby have probably been beneficial for me,” he said.
“You’re always hungry to play for the Wallabies, that was always a dream of mine, I never looked elsewhere.
“At times it was frustrating but it’s all worth it now.
The 25-year-old hasn’t put a foot wrong since being handed a chance at the Waratahs and coach Michael Cheika expects him to bring a different dimension to the Wallabies this weekend.
“It’s just a different style of game, I think,” he said.
“He’s got a bit more running around the fringes and he has been, he’s obviously been competing with Nick strongly at the Waratahs and then he made his way into this team at the expense of Joe (Powell) midway through the year and he’s.performed really well at training.
“He’s had a lot of good energy, a lot of good, he’s linked well with the forwards and I just think it was a great chance for him to get a run.”
The Wallabies take on Italy in Padova on Saturday November 17, kicking off at