MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia coach Michael Cheika has welcomed Adam Ashley-Cooper’s bid to return to the Wallabies fold and play at a fourth World Cup in Japan next year.
The 34-year-old utility back played the last of his 116 tests against New Zealand in 2016 but hopes to sign with a Super Rugby team next season and force his way into Cheika’s squad.
Cheika, who coached Ashley-Cooper at the New South Wales Waratahs during their run to a maiden Super Rugby title in 2014, said he had spoken to him recently about his Wallabies ambitions.
“He said, ‘I’m not looking for any favours or entrees or anything, I want to come back through Super Rugby, prove myself that I’m good enough to take the spot’,” Cheika told reporters.
“And if he plays good enough in Super Rugby, then he’ll get an opportunity I’d imagine like any other player.
“There’s no accords, no guarantees and he doesn’t want it that way. If he does come back he’ll want to earn it himself.
“That’s the quality of the man, that’s what Ashley-Cooper’s about.”
Ashley-Cooper scored four tries at the 2015 World Cup in England, including a hat-trick in the semi-final against Argentina under Cheika. He also played the 2007 and 2011 tournaments.
Wallabies flyhalf Kurtley Beale said his former team mate’s experience could prove valuable.
“He’d definitely influence the young guys in the group and how we want to go,” he said.
“He’s got to prove himself at the moment to come back (but) it’d be awesome to have a quality player like (him) back.”
The Wallabies play Argentina in a Rugby Championship match in the Gold Coast on Saturday.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)