Adam Ashley-Cooper’s return for a crack at a fourth Rugby World Cup campaign with the Wallabies appears close with the NSW Waratahs confirming keen interest and negotiations with him.
Waratahs CEO Andrew Hore emphasised the versatile winger’s personal attributes on Thursday, while saying contract discussions “are live and we will see where that goes.”
“We think in a year such as a World Cup year where depth is going to be important that we can see merit in Adam coming back,” added Hore.
“Everybody speaks very, very highly of his character and leadership is a valuable asset. So anyone that shows really good leadership skills is valuable.”
A veteran of 116 Tests, Ashley-Cooper has already impressed Wallabies coach Michael Cheika with his willingness to return to Australia with no national team guarantees and fight for a Wallabies recall for the 2019 World Cup through Super Rugby.
His skill, experience and leadership could prove major assets for a youthful Wallabies squad struggling to produce consistently good performances.
The 34-year-old was a regular starter in the previous three World Cups in 2007, 2011 and 2015 before heading offshore for club contracts in France then Japan. He returned to play under Cheika in 2016 and has never retired from international rugby.
He now appears likely to return to the Waratahs where he played 61 Super Rugby games from 2012-15 after previously playing 78 games for the Brumbies from 2005-11.
While Ashley-Cooper gained a reputation as a Mr Fix It for his ability to perform well at fullback and centre as well as wing for Australia, he would likely contend for a wing berth next year.
Hore also confirmed belief the Waratahs are very close to retaining the services of Wallabies stars Israel Folau and Bernard Foley.
“We’re hoping that things are imminent there and that will set us up in a strong manner,” he said.