MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The New South Wales Waratahs will farewell a number of Wallabies players at the end of the Super Rugby season but 35-year-old veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper has no plans to join the rush for the exits.
The 117-cap utility back, eyeing a fourth World Cup appearance in Japan this year, still hopes to be given a run at the Waratahs next year or another Super Rugby club in Australia if his current team won’t have him.
“I probably won’t ever retire. I’ll turn up with my boots and see if I can grab a run,” Ashley-Cooper told local broadcaster Fox Sports.
“(Retirement) is not on the cards any time soon.”
With the Waratahs’ hopes of reaching the playoffs on a knife-edge, Saturday’s match against the ACT Brumbies could be the last in front of home fans for Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu, scrumhalf Nick Phipps and three-test winger Curtis Rona.
The trio are all set to join English club London Irish after the World Cup.
Ashley-Cooper, nicknamed “Mr Fix-it” for his adaptability across the backline, underlined his enduring value by scoring a try and setting up another in the Waratahs’ 20-15 away win against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.
The result has set up a blockbuster home clash with the Brumbies, who lead the Australian conference on 39 points with two games remaining, five ahead of the Rebels.
A win over the Brumbies and another loss for the Rebels, who face Super Rugby’s most daunting assignment in playing the champion Canterbury Crusaders away, would deliver a huge boost to the Waratahs’ playoffs ambitions.
However, the Sydney-based side have an additional challenge in needing to give a number of their international players a mandatory rest in the World Cup year, as agreed with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Waratahs boss Daryl Gibson said over the weekend he had no plans to rest them for the Brumbies, meaning he will have holes to fill against the Otago Highlanders in the final round.
Ashley-Cooper said his side had done well to cover for sacked fullback Israel Folau and the injured centre Karmichael Hunt in recent weeks, and the available players would be ready to step up when required.
“We’ve shown enough resolve this year with a lot of external stuff that’s been happening, so that’s just another area that we won’t allow to distract our game or our preparation,” he said.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)