Adam Ashley-Cooper has moved on from a tumultuous return to the Wallabies last year and is focused on pushing his claims for a record-equalling fourth Rugby World Cup appearance.
The 34-year-old, swhose return to NSW was confirmed on Tuesday, played his first Test in two years on last year’s Spring Tour when he started on the wing against Italy but was suspended for the final match of the tour against England.
Ashley-Cooper and teammate Kurtley Beale were stood down for that Test after breaking team rules and inviting Ashley-Cooper's sister-in-law and some female friends back to their hotel room in Cardiff after their clash with Wales.
Though it wasn’t considered a serious indiscretion, the pair were ruled ineligible for selection at Twickenham.
Ashley-Cooper said he was “proud” to have returned to the Wallabies fold but had to move on from that tour with a new season about to start.
“For me, it was really exciting, I was really proud to be back there and reconnecting with the Wallabies team and all the guys there,” he said.
“I didn't think I'd ever go back on tour, I didn't really think I'd get another Wallabies game in, even though it was an ambition of mine, I didn't think it'd happen that soon but also to get a game against Italy was, I was extremely stoked with that.
“That's done now so I've got to be able to move on, got to focus on Super Rugby and performing really well here.”
Ashley-Cooper has been playing in Japan in recent months and wasn’t part of a recent Wallabies conditioning camp in Sydney but said his Super Rugby form would ultimately decide whether he would make the cut for a fourth Rugby World Cup.
If the utility does earn a spot in the 31-man squad, he would be just the second Australian to achieve such a feat along with halfback George Gregan.
“The conversation's always remained very positive with Cheik. Anyone playing Super Rugby this year's in the shot to make the Rugby World Cup team, that's why we play the game,” he said.
“That's why I'm returning to Super Rugby because everyone that plays the game wants to compete at the highest level and that's the Rugby World Cup.
“It's a special year for every rugby player here in Australia, so everyone's going to be looking to perform really really well and impress Cheik and that's what I'm looking to do too. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself because I really want to contribute, perform here for the Waratahs.”
Ashley-Cooper is one of the few players in the current setup that has played under both Cheika and incoming director of rugby Scott Johnson, who was a Wallabies assistant under John Connolly.
“I got my first start with the Wallabies under Scotty Johnson back in 2007,” he said.
“I debuted in '05 but in terms of a regular start was under Scotty in 2007, so that's going back a long time ago but I've worked with him before and I'm looking forward to working with him again.”
"He's been overseas for many years and with travel brings new experiences and new insights and I'm sure he's been up-skilling his game for the last however many years overseas with different nations so he's going to bring a wealth of experience.
"I think they'll get on great. Scotty is a really good lad. he's a little different, little quirky - he won't mind me saying that - but it'll be really good, I'm sure it'll be nothing but healthy and great for the group.
The 117-Test veteran also threw his support behind Cheika, who was last month retained through to the end of 2019.
“I think it's really important that he stays in control,” he said.
“The guy doesn't sleep, he's so passionate about what he does and I think he's the best man for the job.
“I think it wouldn't have been a good idea to make change in terms of the coaching staff particularly at this time before a World Cup.
“So I'm really looking forward to, if I get that opportunity, to working with him again and I know a lot of the other guys are too.”
The Waratahs play their first 2019 Super Rugby trial on Friday in Otago against the Highlanders before a trial match against the Brumbies on Thursday February 7 in Goulburn.