He believes in the Wallabies more than ever, but that hasn’t stopped Adam Ashley-Cooper delivering a sobering word of warning to teammates ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the All Blacks.
Ashley-Cooper says it’s win or bust at ANZ Stadium, with the veteran centre conceding the Bledisloe Cup will be as good as lost for a 13th straight year if the Wallabies don’t draw first blood on home soil.
Venturing to dreaded Eden Park on Saturday week 1-0 down in the three-Test trans-Tasman series doesn’t bear thinking about for the Wallabies, who haven’t won at New Zealand rugby’s spiritual home in 28 years.
“You look at it, you’ve got to beat these guys twice to claim the Bledisloe so it’s so important that you do it first,” Ashley-Cooper told AAP.
“In regards to just setting ourselves to be in a position to take it either the following week or the third time that we meet (in Brisbane).
“If you certainly don’t win the first game against these guys, it makes it almost impossible to claim it.”
Confidence in the Australian camp is sky high on the back of the Wallabies’ seven consecutive Test wins and the NSW Waratahs’ breakthrough Super Rugby final triumph over the Crusaders.
In career-best form and back in his favoured outside centre position, Ashley-Cooper is full of belief too.
But the elder statesman of Australia’s backline also knows the All Blacks, shooting for a tier-one world-record 18th Test win of their own, remain as frightening a prospect as ever.
“The reality of it is, we haven’t beaten the All Blacks in a long time,” he said.
“Why? Because they’ve been the best in the world and we haven’t been good enough.
“So you have to go out there with a mindset to attack. Give it everything and be consistently at your best for 80 minutes of the game.
“That’s what it requires to beat the best in the world.
“So it’s a reflection in Link’s (coach Ewen McKenzie’s) selections – he’s selected the players to do that and I’m more than confident that we can do it.”
While Crusaders captain and IRB world player of the year Kieran Read shot down the significance of the Waratahs’ Super success, Ashley-Cooper said the NSW victory and the momentum of the Wallabies could not be underestimated.
“It’s important within any culture that you establish a winning culture, a winning habit, and that’s something we hope to continue,” said the 94-Test stalwart.
Ashley-Cooper said the Wallabies could even draw inspiration from the NSW rugby league team after the Blues snapped a nine-year State of Origin losing streak against Queensland earlier this year.
“They experienced a bit of change and they worked hard for it,” he said.
“They just went out there and had a crack. They went out there with a game plan to win and that’s something that we’ll certainly aspire to and try to replicate.
“The framework that we believe in and that we’ve got is to go out there and just attack and attack the All Blacks and take on the best.”