Wallabies back Adam Ashley-Cooper says he is confident he still has pace to burn at Test level but is happy to let pundits make their own minds up about that.
Ashley-Cooper is the oldest player in the Wallabies World Cup squad, in his fourth tournament, and has had limited time in Tests this year, featuring in just two of Australia’s matches in 2019.
The Waratah has played across the backline and this year he has been used at outside centre in Super Rugby and on the wing for the Wallabies, after a season of Super Rugby playing mainly 13.
Former teammate and friend Drew Mitchell said last week that Ashley-Cooper should be picked on the wing alongside Marika Koroibete for Australia’s opening match against Fiji.
Asked whether he felt he still had the pace he once did, Ashley-Cooper was fairly frank.
“Dean Benton the S&C coach he's pretty happy at the moment,” he said.
“I think if the coaches are happy, I'm happy.
“We'll let, if I get the opportunity in a game, I'll let everyone else be the judge of that.
“I'm confident in my speed and my game at the moment, regardless of how old I am, I know I can still contribute in this environment so we'll have to wait and see.”
The Wallabies centurion is just the second Wallaby to feature in four World Cups, with George Gregan the other, and he said he wanted to make sure he had time to try and savour this one.
“I think as an older player, a senior player you learn to kind of take every moment as much as you can, be very present and just take it a day at a time,” he said.
“Try to enjoy a Rugby World Cup, enjoy everything that a Rugby World CUp has to offer and then also for me playing in three previous World Cups, I think it's about momentum and building each game and saving your best for last.
“I think inevitably, we've got to win seven in a row to win a Rugby World Cup and I think if we have to focus each game on building momentum, what we've created so far and building on each performance and getting better each game and saving our best for last, that'll put us in the the best shape possible to win a Rugby World Cup.
“Obviously not getting too far down the track but I think it's important that we attract each day, each game with that focus and that mindset to build and improve.”
When it comes to the next game, none are much more important than this week’s against Fiji.
A loss to the Pacific Island nation and the Wallabies ‘ quarter-finals hopes could be in danger.
Win and they will almost certainly play for top spot against Wales eight days later.
“All four games are critical mate, first two absolutely,” he said.
“You really never know what to expect in your first game in a World Cup and particularly against a team like Fiji who can be unpredictable and who have a lot of strengths particularly in that backline.
“It's a critical game for us, absolutely, but like Will said we've had a really good year building up into this point, had a good camp in Noumea, put a lot of focus on our conditioning and our fitness and now since we've been here in Japan, we've just been sharpening the axe.
"Looking forward to our first hit-out.”
While his experience is valuable for his teammates, Ashley-Cooper said his main focus was on ensuring his “pieces of the puzzle” were looked after and setting that bar for the rest of the team.
“I guess for me, more than anything in this World Cup, it's just about making sure I've got my own game right,” he said.
“Making sure I remain competitive, making sure I have a mindset to grow and develop and get better and improve each day and that's how I can contribute to the team building, making sure I'm taking care of my pieces of the puzzle."
The Wallabies take on Fiji on Saturday September 21, kicking off at 1:45pm local, 2:45pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.
“That's certainly how I'm approaching this year and this tournament, with that focus to get better daily.”