Rugby: Ashley Cooper looking to improve a miserable statistic

By Daniel Richardson

Adam Ashley-Cooper has read the statistics and he knows they don't look pretty.

Twenty-one times he has laced up his boots for a test match against the All Blacks and 16 times he has come off the field on the wrong side of the scoreline.

He's experienced four wins and a draw - which probably felt as good as a victory given his record - but there's one number he is edging towards he will be desperate to avoid.

Ashley-Cooper's 16 losses to the All Blacks put him fifth-equal alongside former South African lock Victor Matfield on the list of players who have copped the most defeats at the hands of New Zealand.

Nathan Sharpe was on a losing side 20 times to the All Blacks, with David Campese next on 18, while Matt Giteau and George Smith were both dealt 17 losses.

The common themes with the "top four" are they're all Australian and none are likely to add to their tally in the future given they're either retired or their international playing days are behind them.

Ashley-Cooper will line up at centre for the Wallabies when they meet the All Blacks in the second Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington tomorrow and the 29-year-old is keen to add a tick to the right side of the ledger.

"We certainly aren't lacking motivation. Stats always help and just a win in general [would be great]," Ashley-Cooper said yesterday.

"A win over here would be very special and wins that you do have with test match football overseas, against quality opposition, are ones that you certainly don't forget. This could be one of them."

Despite his win-loss record against the All Blacks, Ashley-Cooper, an 81-test veteran, wasn't backing away from the challenge of finding a way to match them this weekend.

"I love playing these guys and I know from personal experience there's no one I enjoy playing better. Even though I haven't got a great success record I know I play my best football against these guys too.

"We have a great opportunity this week to turn it around, not only for ourselves, but for the opportunity to reclaim the Bledisloe which we haven't held in over a decade."

The Wallabies haven't won a test in New Zealand since they toppled the All Blacks 23-15 in Dunedin in 2001.

Ashley-Cooper didn't see the debut of Tom Taylor as a serious weakness for the home side. "Taylor's a great player."

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made only one change to his starting XV for tomorrow's test from the side who were beaten 47-29 by the All Blacks in Sydney last weekend, with Scott Fardy coming in at blindside flanker to replace the injured Hugh McMeniman.

- APNZ

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