SYDNEY – Utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper is expected to participate in his fourth Rugby World Cup after being named to Australia coach Michael Cheika’s 31-man squad Friday for the tournament in Japan beginning next month.
Ashley-Cooper will be the second Wallaby after George Gregan to play in four showpiece tournaments, with the 35-year-old Ashley-Cooper having played in 17 Rugby World Cup matches. That’s five games behind all-time leaders Jason Leonard of England and New Zealand’s Richie McCaw.
The squad, captained by Michael Hooper with Samu Kerevi as his deputy, includes 1,406 caps of test experience, 200 more than the squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where Australia fell to New Zealand in the final.
Japan will be Hooper’s second appearance at the World Cup while 18 players could make their debuts.
Rookie Jordan Petaia is the only uncapped player on the squad. The 19-year-old missed most of the Super Rugby season with a foot injury.
The Wallabies were to depart for a 10-day training camp in New Caledonia later Friday and will return to Sydney to play Samoa on Sept. 7 in a final match before the World Cup.
Australia is coming off a 36-0 loss to New Zealand in Auckland, allowing the All Blacks to retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 17th consecutive year.
“These next few weeks are about building and adding that little extra edge as a squad and we’ll be working hard to make sure we deliver on the qualities we want people to see when we run out on the field in Japan,” Cheika said.
He also promised to play an “unpredictable” brand of rugby in Japan.
“If we don’t know what we’re doing then the opposition won’t either,” he said, smiling.
The Wallabies play their opening Pool D match against Fiji at Sapporo on Sept. 21.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5