NSW Waratahs back Adam Ashley-Cooper says a win over Super Rugby Australian conference leaders the Brumbies on Saturday is vital, as he prepares to make an emotional return to Canberra.
The Waratahs are five points behind the Brumbies following a 37-33 home loss to the Crusaders in Sydney on Sunday.
A loss to the Brumbies could leave them nine to ten points behind, with just half a dozen more games remaining.
“It is a crucial time in the competition for us, a win next week is vital,” Ashley-Cooper told reporters on Sunday.
“If they get a win they skip further ahead, if we win we get closer to claiming that number one in the Australian conference.”
After playing seven years and 78 Super games for the Brumbies, next Saturday’s match marks Ashley-Cooper’s first game against his former team.
“I’m actually looking really forward to it, I’m not going to take too much distraction away from the team performance, but personally I’m looking forward to getting back there and getting a win,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“I love playing down there. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of emotion going back down there and playing.
“But for me, I’m just going to concentrate on my role within the team and not get distracted by the occasion.”
He was impressed with the Brumbies ability to win the ball at the breakdown and the skills of their backs.
The loss to the Crusaders was the Waratahs’ fifth of the year and their fourth by four points or less.
“It’s no good being close enough, at the end of the day you want to win, you want to get those points,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“We’re yet to close out games, grind out games, particularly in that 50 to 60 minute mark.
“A little bit of ill discipline, a little bit of technical errors are letting us down at critical moments.”
He lined up at fullback but admitted there was a bit of connection missing in the Waratahs backline, as some of them attacked and defended in different positions.