Ashley-Cooper’s chance to end Cup agony
DAVID Pocock is set to miss out, but veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper will be given a final chance to win the Bledisloe Cup after a decade of pain at the hands of the Kiwis.
Ashley-Cooper is tipped to be named on the bench for his 30th and final Bledisloe match - having won just five games since he first played the All Blacks in 2007 - as Australia seek to win back the trophy for the first time in 17 years.
Pocock, who had trained strongly this week in Melbourne, will likely be wrapped in cottonwool until the World Cup in September due to lingering concerns over his persistent calf injury.
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Lock Rory Arnold has succumbed to injury and will be replaced in the starting side by Adam Coleman - the only change to the starting XV from last week - with Rob Simmons to return to the bench after missing the brilliant 47-26 victory in Perth.
With star flanker Pocock likely to retire from Test rugby after the World Cup, his non-selection means he will not get the chance to be part of a potentially famous Bledisloe boilover.
In his place on the bench, Queensland rookie Liam Wright is set to make his Test debut in the furnace of Eden Park.
The 21-year-old Queensland backrower will be a handy ball-pilfering option at the end of the game to assist captain Michael Hooper and hooker Tolu Latu.
The addition of Ashley-Cooper ahead of Tom Banks on the bench sets up a potential fairytale story for the 117-Test stalwart, who has not featured for the Wallabies so far this year.
Having suffered 22 Bledisloe Cup losses and two World Cup defeats to the All Blacks, Ashley-Cooper has been on the receiving end of more heartache than any other player.
After the 2015 World Cup final loss to New Zealand, Ashley-Cooper was set to retire from internationals. But the next year he returned to make one final tilt at winning back the long-lost silverware, but the Kiwis won the first two games and Ashley-Cooper left to play club rugby in France.
He since moved to Japan and was tipped to play out his days there, but in a stunning twist, he took a huge pay-cut to sign with the NSW Waratahs in 2019 for just $85,000, in a bid to make the World Cup squad.
Ashley-Cooper played one Test at the end of last year against Italy, and now will have the chance to end his own Black nightmare, and that of a million long-suffering Australian rugby fans.
WALLABIES (likely): 15. Kurtley Beale 14. Reece Hodge 13. James O'Connor 12. Samu Kerevi 11. Marika Koroibete 10. Christian Lealiifano 9. Nic White 8. Isi Naisarani 7. Michael Hooper (captain) 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 5. Adam Coleman 4. Izack Rodda 3. Allan Alaalatoa 2. Tolu Latu. 1. Scott Sio.
Reserves: 16. Folau Fainga'a 17. James Slipper 18. Taniela Tupou 19. Rob Simmons 20. Liam Wright 21. Will Genia 22. Matt Toomua 23. Adam Ashley-Cooper.