Ashley-Cooper welcomes leadership role

Wallaby utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper is relishing the prospect of playing a leadership role in the Brumbies backline next season, now that stalwarts George Gregan and Stephen Larkham are no longer in the mix.

“It’s [leadership] a goal of mine, definitely, and I’ve learnt a lot at the World Cup and at Super 14 level to help me achieve it,” a confident Ashley-Cooper told the Canberra Times on Tuesday.

While Ashley-Cooper has played only 28 Super Rugby matches, 2007 was a big year for him as he established himself in the Wallaby squad, whilst also signing a new four-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union and the Brumbies.

“Being part of the most important competition in world rugby [World Cup], I’m now looking to have a more dominant impact at Super 14 level and step up.

“My past six months have been pretty bizarre, but hopefully I can build on that,” added the Brumbies utility back.

Ashley-Cooper was also upbeat about the Brumbies’ prospects in 2008, despite the departure of world class half-backs Larkham and Gregan, who have served the Canberra-based Super Rugby franchise with distinction since their ‘foundation season’ back in 1996.

“Their [Gregan and Larkham’s] departures will be good for us,” said Ashley-Cooper, who believes their loss gives the next generation an opportunity to step up.

“It was always going to happen, people come and people go, and this will only make us stronger,” he added.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys who can step up and take a lot more on and shoulder a lot more responsibility and while it will be a great challenge, in the long run it will be great for the Brumbies.”

He did, however, acknowledge that it would not be easy to replace Gregan or Larkham, key members of Australia’s 1999 World Cup triumph.

“You would probably expect we might struggle for a little while, I mean we are losing the best half-back and five-eighth in the world after all, but I’m excited about bridging the gap,” added the 23-year-old Wallaby, who started Tests at inside centre, outside centre, wing and full-back this season.

Ashley-Cooper has begun training for the first time since the Wallabies’ shock 10-12 quarter-final defeat to England at the World Cup last month, adding: “I’m pretty keen to get back with the boys and get amongst the footy again.”

He and Wallaby team-mate Stephen Hoiles have been primarily involved with gym training since returning to the Brumbies and will participate in on-field training next year only.

Three fellow World Cup Wallabies, flanker George Smith, lock Mark Chisholm and utility back Julian Huxley, have yet to return to training. They are, however, expected to return in about two weeks’ time.

 

365 Digital

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