Oz brace for 'best' All Blacks
Adam Ashley-Cooper (Gallo)
Brisbane - Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper is well aware of the daunting task ahead this weekend as the Wallabies prepare to take on a record-chasing New Zealand side the utility back regards as the best he has ever faced.
"These guys are the best in the world, you can't argue with that, and I'd argue that these guys are the best All Blacks side I've ever come across," Ashley-Cooper told Australian media on Monday. "They are absolutely humming at the moment."
The All Blacks face the Wallabies in a Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane on Saturday and although New Zealand have already secured the trophy, they are within sight of equalling the record for successive wins in international rugby.
New Zealand, who retained the Bledisloe Cup for a 10th successive season in August, have won 16 tests since they were beaten by the Wallabies at Lang Park in Brisbane less than two weeks before last year's World Cup.
If they win in Brisbane, they could match Lithuania's world record of 18 successive victories against Scotland on November 10 with the match against Italy on November 17 looming as a possible record breaker.
Ashley-Cooper, who has 72 Test caps and has played the All Blacks 19 times since his international debut in 2005, said the injury-ravaged Wallabies were not concerned about the New Zealand's run.
Instead, they were focusing more on their rally to beat Argentina 25-19 in Rosario nine days ago than the All Blacks's form.
"We can't really let that be a distraction to us; we have to look back at what we did well on the last week of the tour and use that. Bring that belief out and use it," Ashley-Cooper added.
"There's nothing to lose and we can go out and have a good crack."
Australia have struggled this year with a run of serious injuries to key players forcing coach Robbie Deans to name 11 new caps this season, while he had to ask veteran lock Nathan Sharpe to postpone his retirement.
Ashley-Cooper missed the match in Argentina after he was knocked unconscious in a tackle the previous week against the Springboks.
Deans used the inexperienced Ben Tapuai in the centres with inside back Mike Harris forced to play fullback and Nick Cummins made his debut on the wing, and Ashley-Cooper said their performances had boosted the team's depth.
"It's a real positive for us, knowing that guys who haven't played can step into that environment and play well and get a result when our backs are to the wall," Ashley-Cooper said.
"That's a great foundation for the team."