Ashley-Cooper happy to be the Waratahs' everywhere man in 2019

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Adam Ashley-Cooper is happy to be the Waratahs' everywhere man in 2019 after finalising a one-year deal with NSW.

Ashley-Cooper's move to the Waratahs had been all but confirmed late last year and he has been back around the team in recent weeks but it wasn't until Tuesday that the club announced a finalised deal for the  34-year-old.

His value for the Waratahs will come through his versatility, with Ashley-Cooper having played across the backline through his career in both Super Rugby and Tests.

Though NSW have a star-studded backline, many of their biggest names will be managed more closely in a World Cup year and Ashley-Cooper's addition could prove to give coach Daryl Gibson some more flexibility.

Outside centre looms as Ashley-Cooper's most likely spot, with Curtis Rona the regular starter at 13 in 2018, but the returning back said he wasn't worried where he played.

Adam Ashley-Cooper is back for the Waratahs in 2019. Photo: Getty Images"Potentially around the centres but he (Gibson) knows that I bring a lot of versatility," he said.

"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of movement across the backline throughout the season, which there always is so I'm guessing I'll find myself anywhere, given the opportunity if the selection is there but I'm happy to wear any number on my back, Daryl knows that as long as it's what's best for the team."

Ashley-Cooper won't be stretching the Waratahs' bottom line either in his return, accepting a minimum salary for his services in a bid to push his World Cup credentials.

The 117-Test back had been playing in Japan this season with Top League champions Kobe Steel but with the  Japanese competition halted in 2019 to prepare for the World Cup, Ashley-Cooper felt his best chances of a Wallabies spot come September were in Super Rugby.

"I spent three years overseas and I guess when I left Australia a few years ago, I didn't think that I'd make it back but just with the way the competition's structured next year in Japan and there's no Top League before the World Cup, I wasn't really too keen to be sitting around on my hands for nine or 10 months," he said.

"I thought it was a really good opportunity to keep playing top tier football, keep getting better as a rugby player, keep developing my game and the Waratahs offered me an opportunity here and so I took it."

While the lure of a World Cup spot has been a big driver for him, Ashley-Cooper said his first focus was to help the Waratahs return to the Super Rugby summit.

"If you don't perform well in Super Rugby, I guess you're not going to be selected for a World Cup, that's what it boils down to," he said.

"For me, there were a couple of carrots. There's another opportunity to win a Super Rugby title with the Waratahs because I've got great memories of 2014 and what that felt like but then also to get to another Rugby World Cup and win the thing.

"I've had three opportunities, three cracks before and pulled up a little short so there's a lot of football to be played this year and a lot of opportunities around being successful."

The Waratahs play their first Super Rugby trial this Friday against the Highlanders in New Zealand, before taking on the Brumbies in Goulburn on Thursday February 7.