Scotland v Australia
Ashley-Cooper schooling Leali'ifano at 13
November 22, 2013
Adam Ashley-Cooper has been helping the new-look backline © Getty Images
Christian Leali'ifano has praised Adam Ashley-Cooper's resolve and character in helping the patched-up Wallabies backline prepare for their acid test against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Ashley-Cooper is the highest-profile casualty of coach Ewen McKenzie's decision to stand down six players for their roles in a late-night Dublin drinking session ahead of the Ireland Test, and he is known to be upset at having been "made an example of" because of his seniority. But Leali'ifano, who has been pitched into the unfamiliar role of outside centre after injury and suspensions combined to rub four starting backs out of the Murrayfield Test, painted the 90-Test back as a consummate professional for the way he has helped to tutor the completely new three-quarters line in training.
As well as coaching the Brumbies No.12 on refining his game for the defensive difficulties of No.13, Ashley-Cooper has been mentoring 20-year-old winger Chris Feauai-Sautia ahead of his run-on debut.
"He's been absolutely fantastic since the day he was stood down," Leali'ifano said. "He helped out straight away with the whole team. The whole backline. We're very lucky that he's taken that approach and I'm very pleased he has as well."
Without Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau, with 13 Test caps, is now Australia's most experienced outside back.
Leali'ifano, a vice-captain at the Brumbies and already a standard-bearer with the Wallabies, doubted the Dublin episode would tarnish Ashley-Cooper's reputation.
"He's a fantastic person and player," he said. "He'll continue to be that for us and someone I'll always look up to in the side. There's obviously a lot of disappointment with what's going on, but he's rectifying that at training and around the place and I'm sure he'll bounce back."
Leali'ifano, who will regain the goal-kicking duties from Quade Cooper, didn't believe the Dublin fallout - which saw Nick Cummins, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Liam Gill and Paddy Ryan each also banned for one Test - would hurt the Wallabies.
"We're trying to build a strong culture here," he said.
Rated a better No.12 than Matt Giteau by wily Scotland coach Scott Johnson, Leali'ifano believes he can adjust his playmaking skill set to fill the No.13 hole left by Tevita Kuridrani's suspension for a tip tackle against Ireland.
"Everyone has different strengths and I'm not going to be a Tevita or Adam Ashley-Cooper sort of centre," he said. "I'm going to be the best 13 that Australia can have at the moment, and that's just try and play my game."