Rugby: Veteran full of praise for opposition

By Jim Morton

Returning Wallabies stalwart Adam Ashley-Cooper has labelled the current record-seeking All Blacks the best rugby side he's seen.

But a "nothing to lose" mentality and their Suncorp Stadium love affair has an understrength Australian outfit boldly backing themselves for a massive Bledisloe upset on Saturday.

Utility back Ashley-Cooper knows the Wallabies always lift in front of a packed Brisbane crowd and believes they're ready to build on their backs-to-the-wall efforts in Argentina nine days ago.

Suncorp Stadium stands as the venue where New Zealand suffered their most recent defeat - in last year's Tri-Nations decider - and the Wallabies have won 17 of 20 Tests at their favourite ground.

But since Australia's 25-20 transtasman victory 14 months ago, the All Blacks have swept through the World Cup and continued their roll to string together 16 straight wins.

Another success will equal their record of 17 and have them poised to break Lithuania's mark of 18 through dominating the code in the old Soviet Union.

While the Wallabies fell 31-8 to South Africa and then battled to overcome the Pumas 25-19 in the past fortnight, Richie McCaw's team smashed Argentina 54-15 before sweeping aside the Springboks 32-16 on the road.

"These guys are the best in the world ... " Ashley-Cooper said. "They are absolutely humming at the moment.

"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.

"There's nothing to lose and we can go out and have a good crack.

"It always is an awesome game here. I love playing at this stadium."

Australia's most experienced back, Ashley-Cooper (72 caps) has overcome the head knock he suffered in Pretoria and is set to be named at outside centre or wing when the Wallabies team is selected today.

In his absence, Ben Tapuai produced a strong run-on debut against the Pumas, while fellow backline rookies Nick Cummins and Mike Harris also shone to leave coach Robbie Deans with a welcome selection dilemma.

"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."

- AAP

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