Ashley-Cooper, Dempsey return for final Waratahs trial

Ashley-Cooper, Dempsey return for final Waratahs trial

February 6, 2019

Wallabies fans will get their first look at veteran World Cup aspirant Adam Ashley-Cooper when the Waratahs take on the Brumbies in their final Super Rugby trial in Goulburn on Thursday.

Ashley-Cooper, 34, has returned from Japan to the Waratahs in a bid to become just the second Australian to play in four World Cups.

He’s back: Adam Ashley-Cooper will come off the bench in the Waratahs’ trial game against the Brumbies in Goulburn on Thursday. Credit:Mark Nolan/Getty Images

The utility back, considered one of the best defenders in the game, will make his first appearance since 2015 in a NSW jersey, named on an extended bench for the 2018 semi-finalists.

Wallabies Jack Dempsey and Ned Hanigan were also named in the squad, but were the only Test players included as NSW coach Daryl Gibson looks to give his non-Test players maximum exposure in the lead up to the new season.

Gibson went with a virtually unchanged starting line up for Thursday's match, featuring Mitch Short and Mack Mason in the halves, Karmichael Hunt and Lalakai Foketi in the midfield and a front row line up of Harry Johnson-Holmes, Andrew Tuala and Shambeckler Vui.

Will Miller will captain the team again from No.7 and Dempsey will join him in the back row at No.8, with Hanigan to feature off the bench.

Big guns: Only Ashley-Cooper, Karmichael Hunt and Curtis Rona will play against the BrumbiesCredit:AAP

"We're sticking with the combinations, there's been a lot of guys performing well in the off season so it's a good chance to give them another opportunity to play together," NSW assistant coach Chris Whitaker said.

The Brumbies named former Test mainstay James Slipper in the front row, Sam Carter and Rory Arnold in the second row and a supercharged back line, including Joe Powell and Christian Leali'ifano in the halves, Irae Simone and Tevita Kuridrani in the centre and Tom Banks at fullback. Wallabies Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock have been rested.

Whitaker said the Waratahs were confident their Test stars would be battle ready when their season opener against the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval on Saturday week.

"Each player will be different, depending on their load management and how we're going to bring them back, and where they're positioned," he said.

Former Wallaby and Reds prop James Slipper will start for the Brumbies.Credit:Jamila Toderas

"It's a big year and you don't want to burn them out too early but it's also about getting them up to speed so they can jump straight in and get into the speed of the game straight away.

"You can't afford, in this competition, to bring someone in and give them two or three games to get up to speed. These guys are all experienced players, they've played at Test level, more than 50 games. The intensity at training with the load management means I'm sure they'll be ready to go."

Waratahs starting team: Alex Newsome, Curtis Rona, Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael Hunt, Cam Clark, Mack Mason, Mitch Short, Jack Dempsey, Will Miller (c), Lachlan Swinton, Ryan McCauley, Jed Holloway, Shambeckler Vui, Andrew Tuala, Harry Johnson-Holmes.

Brumbies starting team: Tom Banks, Toni Pulu, Tevita Kuridrani, Irae Simone, Lausii Taliauli, Christian Lealiifano (c), Joe Powell, Lachlan McCaffrey, Tom Cusack, Rob Valetini, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper.

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