Brumbies pick Ashley-Cooper and Mortlock - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Brumbies pick Ashley-Cooper and Mortlock

03/02/2009 01:38:35 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper is to form a blockbusting centre combination with Stirling Mortlock for the Brumbies in their final Super 14 trial match against the NSW Waratahs.

New coach Andy Friend appeared to show his hand for the 2009 season on Tuesday when he named Ashley-Cooper at outside centre alongside Mortlock for the clash at Sydney Football Stadium on Thursday.

National skipper Mortlock has played most of his 105 Super rugby matches and 76 Tests at outside centre but moves in one spot to a role he filled for the Wallabies on their European tour late last year.

The versatile Ashley-Cooper was Wallabies coach Robbie Deans' choice at fullback last year but covered several positions for the Brumbies in 2008.

Friend believed a Mortlock/Ashley-Cooper centre combination would rate among the top midfields in the Super 14.

"We're in a very fortunate position given the depth and flexibility within our backline," Friend said.

"Adam's an extremely versatile player and has performed in each position he's been put in but I believe that outside centre is his best position.

"He's a very powerful athlete, he's got the pace to expose any space out wide and defensively he's very sound.

"Having Stirling closer to the action will also have significant benefits.

"He was outstanding at giving the Wallabies a lot of direction when he was at 12 last year and he will be able to provide a lot of assistance to (flyhalf) Christian Lealiifano.

"Both of them [Mortlock and Ashley-Cooper] are aggressive, powerful ball runners and using them both in the centres will definitely test any opposition defensive line."

The Brumbies will start an all-Wallabies front row of Ben Alexander, Nic Henderson and Stephen Moore, who will make his first appearance for the side since joining from the Queensland Reds.

Former Waratahs lock Ben Hand has also received his first start for the Brumbies and will pair up with Mark Chisholm in the second row.

Flanker George Smith joins Wallaby teammates Mortlock, Ashley-Cooper and Moore for his first run in 2009.

Clyde Rathbone will resume his position on the wing following last week's successful return to provincial rugby after a 22-month absence through injury.

Brumbies: Mark Gerrard, Clyde Rathbone, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Stirling Mortlock, Francis Fainifo, Christian Lealiifano, Josh Holmes, Stephen Hoiles (capt), George Smith, Peter Kimlin, Ben Hand, Mark Chisholm, Nic Henderson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander. Res: John Ulugia, Guy Shepherdson, Shawn Mackay, Sitaleki Timani, Patrick Phibbs, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Julian Salvi, Matt Toomua, Pat McCabe (two to be omitted).

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