Wallabies in club-versus-country battle

Wallabies star Adam Ashley-Cooper is bracing for a showdown with his French employers as he resumes his decade-long quest for Bledisloe Cup glory.

While Bordeaux have freed up Ashley-Cooper for Australia’s first two games of the Rugby Championship – which double as Bledisloe Cup battles against the All Blacks on August 20 and 27 – the backline ace faces an ongoing club-versus-country struggle.

The entire Rugby Championship lasts eight weeks and starts the day before the French Top 14 season starts.

Not only do the two major southern hemisphere competitions clash directly with the French season, the third – and potentially decisive – Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland on October 22 stretches the duration of the Wallabies’ Test campaign to 10 weeks.

Fellow France-based Wallabies Drew Mitchell and Matt Giteau, who admit to making a considerable financial sacrifice to take leave from Toulon, are in the same boat as Ashley-Cooper.

“I’ve just kind of made the decision to come back based on these first two games and the (third) encounter against the Kiwis, which is the Bledisloe,” Ashley-Cooper said on Tuesday.

“My situation’s a little bit different to the boys who are here fulltime, so I’ve got to play that on the run.

“But, for me, my decision was based on achieving a Bledisloe Cup.

Asked if he would be available for the potential series decider in Auckland, Ashley-Cooper said: “I tell you what, that certainly makes the conversation with my French club president over there very, very interesting.

“I’ve only got one ambition this year and that’s to raise the Bledisloe Cup.”

The predicament facing Ashley-Cooper, Mitchell and Giteau may prove a test of World Rugby’s Regulation 9, which requires clubs to release players for international duty.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is unlikely not to pick the star trio for all Tests during Australia’s Rugby Championship defence and, of course, the Bledisloe Cup, arguably the most prestigious rugby competition outside of the World Cup.

“The guys that are coming back from France, everyone’s individual situation is different and they’re conversations that are going to have to be had on the run with Cheik, the ARU and all the club presidents back home,” Ashley-Cooper said.

“So all we’re focusing on now is game one and that’s hopefully a win.”

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