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Adam Ashley-Cooper ready to break finals curse with NSW Waratahs

Running man: Adam Ashley-Cooper training with the Waratahs on Thursday.

Running man: Adam Ashley-Cooper training with the Waratahs on Thursday.

Decorated NSW utility Adam Ashley-Cooper is only six games off his Test century but he has rotten luck in finals football. 

There were four junior rugby league grand final losses with the Berkeley Vale Panthers and The Entrance Tigers, a semi-final exit and two grand final disappointments with the Ourimbah Razorbacks as a rugby convert, and the heartbreak of Norths' loss to Sydney University in the 2002 first-grade colts grand final. 

Since then, there has been one Tri Nations trophy and 55 Test victories, but no World Cup or Bledisloe glory and not a single Super Rugby finals match. 

"I was nine years down the track last year without an appearance," Ashley-Cooper said. 

"I questioned myself early on in junior footy when I lost about five or six grand finals, that maybe I wasn't ever supposed to win one.

"But being a part of it on Saturday night with a team I respect and love being part of, makes it all worthwhile."

A home crowd expected to reach close to 40,000 – 499 short of the Waratahs' biggest home crowd at any venue – will add to the atmosphere at Allianz Stadium. 

It is also the first time this season the Waratahs have not had a game up their sleeve. Their dominance of the regular season means this is the first sudden-death scenario they have faced. 

"It's pressure that's needed for you to perform at your best," Ashley-Cooper said.

"I've always known big games bring the best out of me because there is that extra pressure and expectation of performance, there's a little bit of game anxiety and there's a lot of nerves. But you use it, you use it in games to play well."

The Brumbies arrived in Sydney on Thursday afternoon, bringing with them heightened intrigue over their strategy heading into the semi-final clash. 

After a season dominated by their trademark pressure game, the Larkham-isation of last year's runners-up – as coach Michael Cheika puts it – resulted in their most expansive display yet against the Chiefs last week. 

Waratahs assistant coach Nathan Grey predicted a mix of styles to test the minor premiers' resolve. 

"They're finding that balance well, when to kick and when to run, and certainly it's reflected in their play," Grey said. 

"Bernie [Larkham]'s a great coach ... He was a fantastic attacking player, and the team's playing in that style. 

"They can fall back on a solid kicking game as well if they need to, so I think they're going to bring a mixture of the two, according to how things are going on the pitch."

Ashley-Cooper said physicality would be the Brumbies' foundation on Saturday. 

"They're going to bring a lot of intensity and urgency into the breakdown and they'll look to kill our attack," he said. 

"First and foremost, it's about taking care of that, making sure we have ball to attack with and a nice little platform or foundation to use guys like Izzy Folau and KB [Kurtley Beale]. 

"Not only will they be hard on our ball, they'll be pretty solid across their back line defensively, so it's going to be a real challenge. 

"I'm hoping there's not too much stop-start. I'm hoping it's going to be free-flowing and a semi-final that people want to turn up to watch."

Ashley-Cooper spent seven seasons with the Brumbies before moving here at the end of 2011. 

It is fitting that the NSW and Wallabies vice-captain will try to break his finals hoodoo against the province that handed him his professional debut almost a decade ago. 

"All that history is water under the bridge," he said.

"It does make it a little bit interesting knowing I have a lot of friends down there who still play in that team, but like any other interstate rivalry and game, there's always that extra heat and I'm looking forward to it."

HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 23vs WAL 19 Stats
NZL 62vs FRA 13 Report Stats
IRE 20vs ARG 43 Report Stats
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 35vs SCO 34 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 18vs NZL 20 Stats
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 15vs AUS 29 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 24vs ARG 13 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NZL 34vs AUS 17 Stats
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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