Wallabies, Tahs are Ashley-Cooper’s focus

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    Adam Ashley-Cooper says the lure of overseas rugby can wait until he’s given everything he can to achieving glory at home with the Wallabies and Waratahs.

    Turning 29 next week, the Test star was tempted more than ever to switch to Europe or Japan.

    But he said his decision to sign a new two-year deal to remain in Australia was motivated by the nagging feeling there’s unfinished business at home.

    For Sunday’s must-win Super Rugby clash with the Blues at Allianz Stadium, Ashley-Cooper forms a new-look midfield combination alongside Rob Horne.

    Horne will start in the less familiar position of inside centre with Ashley-Cooper at No.13, however it’s clear the two will interchange throughout the match.

    Two of the best one-on-one defenders in the Waratahs line-up, the pair are on a mission to double-team the Blues’ attacking spark – outside centre Rene Ranger.

    But in a broader sense, Ashley-Cooper yearns for a Super Rugby title and feels it’s far too early to be leaving the Waratahs, with new coach Michael Cheika rejuvenating his enthusiasm.

    At Test level, he has his eyes on a third World Cup appearance in 2015 and achieving 100 Test caps.

    “I feel that I have a bit left at the international level so there’s a lot to stay for,” Ashley-Cooper told AAP.

    “(Cheika) has certainly mixed things up here at the Waratahs. It’s just helped change the culture of the team.

    “There was a lot of temptation from overseas, particularly Japan and Europe.

    “There’s a lot to play for over there – a change in culture and a financial decision and an overall change in career. But at the end of the day, it came back to knowing I had a little bit longer here.”

    The Waratahs and Australian rugby in general have a mountain of stars coming off contract at the end of this year.

    But this week, Sekope Kepu and Ashley-Cooper have re-signed with NSW, and Melbourne halfback Nick Phipps has announced he’s heading north to Tah-land.

    NSW captain Dave Dennis hopes Ashley-Cooper’s show of faith in the direction being taken by the Waratahs will influence other off-contract players to stay.

    “Guys like Adam and Kepu, they have a lot of influence on the group in different ways,” Dennis said.

    “So I’m hoping that it will have an effect on those guys who are unsure at the moment.”

    Ashley-Cooper is looking forward to going into battle with Horne.

    “Horney’s a great defender one-on-one. I’m certainly going to need him inside me this week against the likes of Rene Ranger. He’s a pretty dangerous player,” Ashley-Cooper said.

    “We’re both very similar players. We’re both usually 13s so that certainly makes it a lot easier defending together.

    “There will be that potential to mix it up and interchange so we are hoping that works and brings a little bit of creativity to the backline.”

    Horne missed the opening weeks of Super Rugby with a hamstring problem but said the Waratahs and not a Wallabies return against the British and Irish Lions is what’s on his mind.

    NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Peter Betham, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Pat McCutcheon, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (capt), Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Paddy Ryan, John Ulugia, Benn Robinson. Res: Luke Holmes, Sekope Kepu, Mitchell Chapman, Jed Holloway, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Tom Kingston.

    © AAP 2017