Wallabies vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper is hoping the ARU’s decision to free up elite overseas-based players for Test selection allows Matt Giteau to join one of the most exclusive clubs in Australian rugby.
Ashley-Cooper is among only five Australians to have earned more than 100 Test caps, having famously posed in cricket whites in the Wallabies’ team photo before raising his bat against the All Blacks last year.
The versatile back joined George Gregan (139 Tests), Nathan Sharpe (116), George Smith (111) and David Campese (101) in reaching his century and is delighted to be one of the big beneficiaries of the ARU’s policy change.
The 31-year-old stalwart could finish 2015 with as many as 115 Tests under his belt before potentially adding even more to his tally while enjoying life in Bordeaux after the World Cup.
“I said long before even the speculation about these change of rules, that I’d put my hand up to play for Australia,” said Ashley-Cooper, currently on 104 Tests.
“Whether or not I’ll be fast enough or sharp enough to do that, that’d be up to me in years to come.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting for any of those rules to change, but I see it as a great reward for guys who have given either seven years or 60 caps of service to the Australian Rugby Union.
“In the end, I think you’ll see that it will actually retain young players and give them that incentive to reach that criteria and give them an option later on in their career.
“It’s a win win for the player that’s reached that goal and also for the ARU that’s going to be able to conserve a little bit of money to put into the youth of Australian rugby.”
Above all, Ashley-Cooper is chuffed at the prospect of three of Australia’s finest players rekindling their international careers – possibly as early as the Rugby Championship in – and most notably Giteau.
The midfield playmaker has been stranded on 92 Tests since being controversially overlooked by former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
“There’s a few guys there that are eligible – George Smith, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, all close friends of mine that I’ve spent many years with, many Tests with, many tours with,” Ashley-Cooper said.
“So that could be a special moment.
“But I think obviously highlighting Gits’ career, it gives him a really good opportunity to reach that 100 Tests that he deserves.
“So I think it’s up to him now. The ball’s in his court to be playing well and performing well to granted selection in the World Cup squad.”
AUSTRALIA’S MOST-CAPPED WALLABIES:
George Gregan – 139 Tests
Nathan Sharpe – 116 Tests
George Smith – 111 Tests
Adam Ashley-Cooper – 104 Tests
David Campese – 101 Tests
Matt Giteau – 92 Tests