Wallabies star Adam Ashley-Cooper is set to join some of the legends of world rugby in playing 100 Test matches for Australia.
There’s more disenchantment in the Wallabies ranks, with vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper left underwhelmed by the ARU’s token recognition of his 100th Test appearance.
When Ashley-Cooper runs on to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night to tackle the All Blacks, he will become just the sixth Australian to rack up a century of Tests.
The indestructible backline ace will join some of the game’s legends, with former teammates George Gregan (139), Nathan Sharpe (116), George Smith (111) and Stephen Larkham (102) and David Campese (101) the only other Wallabies to have achieved the mighty feat.
Ashley-Cooper will play his 100th Test nine years and two days after famously debuting against South Africa in Perth in 2005 without a number on his jumper after being ushered from the stands after ordering a beer and meat pie.
Only Smith has reached the magnificent milestone in quicker time – eight years, eight months and three weeks – yet Ashley-Cooper’s rare accomplishment is set to pass with little more than a congratulatory handshake from ARU boss Bill Pulver and the presentation of a cap to the popular stalwart.
While the 30-year-old is too classy and professional to make a fuss of the lack of fanfare, Ashley-Cooper’s family are privately extremely disappointed.
To celebrate the special occasion, Ashley-Cooper’s family have – at their own expense – organised an informal gathering of friends and supporters following Australia’s final Bledisloe Cup showdown of the year in Brisbane.
Ashley-Cooper’s relative and former Wallaby Graeme Bond will be among those toasting the only player who played 560 minutes at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
While there are no official functions planned to mark the milestone, Ashley-Cooper’s former teammates including Sharpe, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell are already celebrating the looming feat with #Swoop100 references on Twitter.
Also trending among Wallabies players – past and present – is #oneteam, with Ashley-Cooper supporting Mitchell’s tweet last Thursday in hoping for “some good news” for troubled star Kurtley Beale.
Ashley-Cooper took Beale under his wing on the recent tour of Argentina following revelations of the playmaker’s in-flight spat with Di Patston, who on Friday resigned from the ARU as pressure mounts on coach Ewen McKenzie to unify the team.
Wallabies great Matt Burke and former All Blacks star Jeff Wilson both used their newspaper columns on Sunday to apply the blow torch to McKenzie, who is in danger of losing his dressing room as senior players side with Beale in the messy scandal engulfing Australian rugby.
Wilson claimed the Wallabies were in disarray heading into their final domestic Test of 2014.
“To my mind, they are one step from imploding,” he wrote for Fairfax Media.
“So far have the Wallabies plunged that it is hard to see how they can change their fortunes in Brisbane.”
After enjoying a few days off the Wallabies will assemble in Sydney on Sunday to begin preparations for the All Blacks clash.
Australian rugby’s most-capped players
George Gregan – 139 Tests (1994-2007)
Nathan Sharpe – 116 Tests (2002-12)
George Smith – 111 Tests (2000-13)
Stephen Larkham – 102 Tests (1996-2007)
David Campese – 101 Tests (1982-1996)
*Adam Ashley-Cooper – 99 Tests (2005-2014)
*Set to make his 100th Test appearance on Saturday night against the All Blacks in Brisbane.