Ashley-Cooper keeping options open - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ashley-Cooper keeping options open

By Adrian Warren 31/05/2010 06:23:03 PM Comments (0)

The Wallabies' backline troubleshooter Adam Ashley-Cooper is happy to settle for a spot anywhere in the back three as others challenge for the fullback berth.

Valued for his versatility, Ashley-Cooper has performed with distinction at centre, wing and fullback in a 37-Test career stretching back to 2005.

The nomadic back appeared to have finally found a permanent home at fullback for all four tests on the 2009 Grand Slam campaign.

His safe handling of the high ball allied to his ground gaining run appeared to have earned him the spot ahead of another gifted utility James O'Connor, who wore the No.15 jersey earlier in the year.

During the recently completed Super season, O'Connor and Waratahs utility Kurtley Beale each excelled at fullback and both were among the top five placegetters in the Australian Player of the Series award.

With Queensland winger Peter Hynes also enjoying a fine season at fullback after being moved from the wing, Ashley-Cooper acknowledged there was now several strong candidates vying for the position.

However, Ashley-Cooper stressed there was now little difference between playing at wing and fullback and he was happy to perform either role.

"There's plenty of fullbacks to choose from, I've got no idea what (Wallabies coach) Robbie (Deans) is thinking," Ashley Cooper told reporters on Monday.

"But that's healthy, because it's keeping everyone pretty edgy on their toes."

Ashley-Cooper said he wasn't surprised at Beale's successful transition from a playmaking inside back to a counter attacking fullback.

"No, because he's a great talent. I thought that when it was announced that he would make the move to 15 that it would certainly open up doors for him and it has, so there's a lot of competition for that 15 jersey," Ashley-Cooper said.

"Obviously Drew (Mitchell) had a cracking season on the wing, but he prefers 15.

"There's Kurtley, who had a great year and there's James O'Connor.

"I felt Peter Hynes had a pretty solid year at fullback, so there's plenty of fullbacks to choose from."

Ashley-Cooper felt the refereeing interpretation this year had opened up the game, something which suited him as kicking was not his forte.

"Kicking is still an important part of the game, but it's finally nice to get the hands on the ball and find some space and actually have a crack," Ashley-Cooper said.

While Australia's backline bristles with plenty of attacking flair, Ashley-Cooper said defence would certainly be a strong point for Australia heading into Saturday's opening Test of the season against Fiji in Canberra.

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