Christian Leali'ifano leads plaudits for suspended Adam Ashley Cooper ahead of Scotland Test

21 November 2013 9:00 PM

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Christian Leali'ifano leads plaudits for suspended Adam Ashley Cooper ahead of Scotland Test

The Wallabies will struggle to even field a team against Scotland after Matt Toomua joined Australia's unavailable list after sustaining a hamstring injury.

WALLABIES wildcard Christian Leali'ifano has praised stood-down stalwart Adam Ashley-Cooper's resolve and character in helping a patched-up backline prepare for their acid test against Scotland.

Leali'ifano has been pitched into the unfamiliar role of outside centre after injury, suspension and a late-night Dublin drinking session combined to rub four starting backs out of Sunday morning's (EDT) clash at Murrayfield.

Ashley-Cooper has been the highest-profile casualty of coach Ewen McKenzie's controversial decision to stand down six players for the Dublin episode and is known to be upset by being "made an example of" due to his seniority.

Former Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell, a close friend of Ashley-Cooper, showed his disdain for the heavy punishments by insinuating, on his Twitter account, the worse crime was teammates dobbing them in.

But Leali'ifano painted the 90-Test back as a consummate professional by the way he's helped tutor a completely new three-quarter line in training.

As well as coaching the Brumbies No.12 on refining his game for the defensive difficulties of No.13, Ashley-Cooper has been mentoring 20-year-old winger Chris Feauai-Sautia ahead of his run-on debut.

"He's been absolutely fantastic since the day he was stood down," Leali'ifano said.

"We're very lucky that he's taken that approach and I'm very pleased he has as well."

Without Ashley-Cooper, superstar fullback Israel Folau, with 13 Test caps, is now Australia's most experienced outside back.

Leali'ifano, a vice-captain at the Brumbies and already a standard-bearer with the Wallabies, doubted the Dublin episode would tarnish Ashley-Cooper's reputation.

"He'll continue to be that for us and someone I'll always look up to in the side.

"There's obviously a lot of disappointment with what's going on but he's rectifying that at training and around the place and I'm sure he'll bounce back."

Leali'ifano, who will regain the goalkicking duties from Quade Cooper, didn't believe the Dublin fall-out - which also saw Nick Cummins, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Liam Gill and Paddy Ryan hit with one-Test bans - would hurt the Wallabies.

Rated a better No.12 prospect than Matt Giteau by wily Scotland coach Scott Johnson, Leali'ifano believed he could adjust his playmaking skill set to fill the No.13 hole left by Tevita Kuridrani's suspension.

"Everyone has different strengths and I'm not going to be a Tevita or Adam Ashley-Cooper sort of centre," he said.

"I'm going to be the best 13 that Australia can have at the moment and that's just try and play my game."


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