Wallabies seek Bledisloe Cup redemption
July 31, 2013
Adam Ashley-Cooper says the appointment of Ewen McKenzie already has the Wallabies on their toes © Getty Images
Wallabies stalwart Adam Ashley-Cooper says finally winning back the Bledisloe Cup would be ample compensation for losing a once-in-a-lifetime series against the British and Irish Lions.
New coach Ewen McKenzie will assemble his 40-man training squad in Sydney on Monday ahead of Australia's Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener against the world champion All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on August 17.
Not one member of the squad has experienced trans-Tasman series success, with Australia last holding the coveted Cup in 2002, and Ashley-Cooper says it's an enticing opportunity to bounce back from the deflating third-Test loss to the Lions.
"The guys were a little flat post (Lions) campaign but it was easy to put it behind you and move on with what's coming up next," Ashley-Cooper said. "It would be ample compensation and it all would be forgotten once you claim that Bledisloe. Most of the guys in the squad won't have ever held a Bledisloe Cup, so that's pretty exciting for the guys to look forward to."
Even before entering camp, Ashley-Cooper says McKenzie already has the Wallabies on their toes, with no-one guaranteed a Test jumper in a new era for Australian rugby after five years with New Zealander Robbie Deans at the helm.
McKenzie made it clear when he named his preliminary squad, which will be cut to 30 on August 9, that he was "not fixed on who will start" against the All Blacks.
Ashley-Cooper, a veteran of 80 Tests and the only player from any team to play seven full matches at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, believes such uncertainty and competition for spots is healthy.
"Change in general keeps everybody on their toes," said the backline utility. "It's a little bit unpredictable at the moment. No one knows what to expect from Ewen so we'll find out once we get into camp and get a little bit of familiarity with the program and his coaching concepts."
"But change is always good. From what I've heard, Ewen will do a great job," Ashley-Cooper added. "I like the idea of an Australian coach coaching an Australian team and I think that will bring a lot of familiarity and comfort amongst the squad. So I'm looking forward to the changes he brings, and obviously the atmosphere."
McKenzie last week said he was unlikely to make too many changes too soon, but he is almost certain to reinstate Queensland Reds playmaker Quade Cooper at five-eighth.
Winger Israel Folau is confident of being 100 per cent recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained in the third Test against the Lions and says he's relishing the chance to play outside Cooper.
"Obviously he's a great player. I'd love to get the opportunity to play alongside Quade," Folau said. "We'll see as we go down the track, but hopefully we get the chance to do that."
The Wallabies lost 14 of their 18 Tests against the All Blacks under Deans from 2008 to 2012, including the World Cup semi-final in Auckland two years ago.
Deans' only successes against his countrymen came in his first Test in charge in Sydney in 2008, a Bledisloe Cup dead rubber in Hong Kong in 2010 and the Tri Nations decider in Brisbane in 2011, with the Wallabies and All Blacks drawing 18-18 last time they met last year in Brisbane.
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby
Huw Richards Rewinds to 1975 when three Welsh legends were handed their debuts and assesses their legacy
Seven places in the Champions Cup quarter-finals are up for grabs; we break down the permutations for each group in the final round of matches