Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper. Picture: REUTERS / STEFAN WERMUTH
Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper. Picture: REUTERS / STEFAN WERMUTH

Tokyo — Wallabies veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper believes he still has the pace to hurt the opposition in his fourth Rugby World Cup, the versatile 35-year-old said before the tournament gets under way in Japan.

Ashley-Cooper, poised to become the only other Australian player besides George Gregan to play in four World Cups, has been used at outside centre in Super Rugby by the Waratahs and on the wing for the Wallabies.

Asked if he still had the pace, he told a news conference that strength and conditioning coach Dean Benton is “pretty happy”, and if the coaches are happy, he’s happy.

“If I get the opportunity in a game, I’ll let everyone else be the judge of that,” he said. “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.”

Though always ready to share his experience with teammates, Ashley-Cooper’s priority is to underline his worth on the field.

“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 — that’s how I can contribute to the team-building, making sure I’m taking care of my pieces of the puzzle.”

The experience of the past three World Cups tells him that the two-times champions must keep improving and save their best for last to win the trophy that has eluded them since 1999.

“We’ve got to win seven in a row to win a Rugby World Cup,” he said. “I think if we focus each game on building momentum, what we’ve created so far and building on each performance, getting better each game and saving our best for last, that’ll put us in the best shape possible to win a Rugby World Cup.”

Australia begin their Pool D campaign against Fiji on Saturday before taking on Wales. Ashley-Cooper, nicknamed Mr Fix-it for his ability to fill holes in the Wallabies back line, says both are must-win matches.

“All four [group] 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 back line.” 

Reuters