Super Rugby
Ashley-Cooper certain of Waratahs winning attitude
ESPN Staff
February 17, 2014
The Waratahs' Adam Ashley-Cooper runs with the ball, Melbourne Rebels v New South Wales Waratahs, Super Rugby, AAMI Park, Melbourne, May 24, 2013
Adam Ashley-Cooper is sure that the Waratahs will dazzle this season with new confidence within the side © Getty Images

Waratahs star Adam Ashley-Cooper has told the Daily Telegraph there is a new level of confidence among the Waratahs in the lead up to the 2014 Super Rugby season compared to previous years.

With the usual high expectations lumped on to the Tahs in the lead up to the season, Tahs critics believe the expectations will soon be followed by the inevitable failure that has dogged the New South Welshman since the competitions inception in 1996, Ashley-Cooper believes the sides' belief will lead to a maiden title.

"It's different because of the belief off the back of last year and what we went through together," Ashley-Cooper said. "I mean, we changed the way we played, and we're working on changing our identity.

"We're really focused on finding our new identity, but embracing it and showing it. That's probably the difference you can see."

Michael Cheika enters his second season, after developing a sharp attacking style in 2013, will have the added spark of Kurtley Beale in his squad.

After impressing Cheika and fans during trial matches developing a powerful combination with Bernard Foley when used at inside centre, but with the first game of the season against the Force's rush defence, Rob Horne may be the better choice in the midfield.

"Rob Horne can do that job, he can pass as well," Cheika said. "We have a certain shape, we know when we want to shift the ball, we know when we want to run.

"We have a certain shape, we know when we want to shift the ball, we know when we want to run. Both players can pass, they're different types of runners, but they're both threats whether it's Beale, [Jono] Lance or Horne in that position.

"We're pretty clear around, when we do change positions, who is doing what and what their role is. There's no doubt [Force] are going to play everyone up in the line, and go at our rucks, and say 'You guys don't want to kick, so kick it in behind us'.

"We already know that's the way they're going to play, and it's a smart way to play, so it'll be up to us to make a decision on how we deal with that. The tactical issues are secondary to making sure we maintain that good body height, that physicality, lay a platform that we can attack from."

Cheika suggested that whoever was named in the midfield would defend wider out.

"The real issue for us about putting a guy like Kurtley or Foley in the centres is to go back with [Israel] Folau for counter-attack," Cheika said. "We want the other team to kick to us so we can counter in those situations. So we're trying to work out our counter-attack strategy so it's got the best option possible. I feel it's a really potent part of our attacking regime.

"They're smart enough to go up and back."

Ashley-Cooper is delighted with the Beale-Foley combination

"They're both great attacking threats with the ball and they create a lot of opportunities," he said. "That's exactly what an outside back or a midfielder wants. Once these guys take it to the defensive line, challenging the line and are putting you through holes, and those guys are more than capable of doing that.

"Again it's a matter of what combination he wants to run with, a ball-player with two midfield running backs, or two types of ball-players with one midfield runner? Whatever mix it's going to be it's going to be for the feel of the opposition we're playing.

"I think there will be a fair bit of rotation this year, not only each week with players, but in-game as well. I think that's a great threat we have. For the crowd's sake I hope it's a really entertaining game [against Force], but I know it's going to be a real fight."

Cheika has a second backline dilemma with several players pushing to be named on the wings, with rookie Alofa Alofa impressing during trials, pressuring Wallaby Peter Betham and the strong Cam Crawford.

"With Alofa, I think the key issue for NSW this year is about being consistent, and that's two games in a row now where he's delivered good footwork, he's done the things that he's in the team (to do), his profile, well," Cheika said.

"Maybe at the start I thought it would have been a longer project, but he's putting the form on the board that's making it hard for me to not have him in."

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick discuss the season ahead
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