Ashley-Cooper back to tackle Kiwis
Australia utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper hopes the omens are on his side when he returns for the first time since being knocked out against New Zealand in Brisbane this weekend.
Nearly three weeks after the horror collision with South African full-back Zane Kirchner left him unconscious, the 28-year-old has recovered and is sizing up the All Blacks for the Bledisloe Cup encounter at Suncorp Stadium. It will take something special for an injury-ravaged Australia to snap the All Blacks' 16-match unbeaten streak in Tests.
New Zealand have not lost since the last time they faced the Wallabies in Brisbane - and that slice of history, together with the backing of a capacity Lang Park crowd, has Ashley-Cooper taking heart. "It's about urgency, intensity and accuracy. These guys are the best in the world and they're absolutely humming at the moment," he told reporters on Thursday.
"We're going to have to turn up. But that's a challenge everyone's excited about. The guys love playing here. I love playing here. We always lift for some reason in front of a Queensland crowd. There's a lot of energy in the atmosphere and amongst the crowd, so I'm really excited about getting back out there."
Not that he can remember much from the last time he featured in a gold jersey. The 28-year-old was cleared of serious injury after his try-saving tackle on Kirchner at Loftus Versfeld, but he's still trying to piece the night together in his head.
"I don't remember much of the first half," Ashley-Cooper said. "But I vaguely remember going in for contact, and then waking up to doctor asking if I could open my eyes. I thought it was the space of two or three seconds max, but apparently it was for a little bit longer.
"It was a good case of an old-fashioned knock-out. In those moments you don't think where to put your head, you just want to put him into touch. It would have looked pretty stupid, I reckon."
The versatile Ashley-Cooper has been named on the wing for Saturday's game, adding to a building sense of deja vu. He played on the right when Australia beat New Zealand in the Tri-Nations fixture 14 months ago at the same venue.
"Hopefully that's a bit of an omen for me," he said. "I've played many positions over the last couple of years and especially this year. But like I've said before, and I hate to repeat myself, I'm happy just to play anywhere.
"It doesn't matter what number on your back - you always end up in a different position anyway. It's not a case of sticking to your wing, it's covering all positions across the back field."