ODAWARA, 16 Sep - Australia winger Adam Ashley-Cooper is adamant a relentless and uncompromising approach to training is the best example he can set his teammates.
The 35-year-old is poised to match George Gregan's record of playing at four Rugby World Cups. He says his standards remain as high as ever.
"I want to demand the best of the guys around me. How that comes across doesn’t really matter because what goes on (on) the training field stays on the training field. It is never anything personal, it’s just professional," Ashley-Cooper, pictured above scoring a try at RWC 2015, said at the Wallabies' training base on Monday.
"I want to be really positive in that approach, making sure that not only am I growing and remaining competitive, but I want to compete against the guys around me and make them grow and make them better."
Despite boasting 1,406 caps - making it the most experienced Australia Rugby World Cup squad ever - Ashley-Cooper has 18 rookies to keep an eye on, including the much-hyped 19-year-old winger Jordan Petaia, who is yet to make his international debut. None of them has far to turn if they do want some advice on getting the most out of the next seven weeks.
"For me, playing in three previous World Cups, it is about momentum, building on each game and saving your best for last," said the man with 118 caps to his name.
"When you reflect back on a World Cup, they go so quickly. As an older player, you learn to take every moment in as much as you can, be very present and take it a day at a time and try to enjoy everything a Rugby World Cup has to offer."
Playing in Japan's Top League for the Kobelco Steelers - an experience he labels as the most enjoyable of his career - has only sharpened Ashley-Cooper's desire to make a major impact on Asia's first Rugby World Cup. Despite some pundits questioning his current turn of pace, Ashley-Cooper is certain he is in shape to do far more than just make up the numbers.
"If I get an opportunity in the game I will let everyone be the judge of that, but I am pretty confident with my speed and my game at the moment," he said. "Regardless of how old I am, I know I can contribute in this environment.
"If I get the opportunity in a game, I'll let everyone else be the judge of that."@wallabies back Adam Ashley-Cooper says he's confident he still has pace to burn at Test level but is happy to let spectators make up their own minds. #RWC2019https://t.co/I0JRBCHgKa— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) September 16, 2019
"Dean Benton, the S and C (strength and conditioning) coach, is pretty happy at the moment. If the coaches are happy I am happy."
If Australia progress to the latter stages of the tournament and Ashley-Cooper plays in six or more matches, he will become the most experienced Rugby World Cup player of all time, perhaps a fitting accolade for an athlete who has given so much to the game.