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'It's much bigger than us' - Ashley-Cooper aware of RWC importance to Australian sport

The Wallabies remain an unknown quantity on the field, but within the inner sanctum of the Australian camp there is no confusion as to what the gold jersey represents and just how important the Rugby World Cup is to the fans back home.

Enough to lose sleep over? Yes, as many dedicated souls woke in the middle of the night, in the middle of the working week, to watch Wednesday night's grinding victory over Fiji. Others will have opted for the replay, or the Foxtel IQ function; but no matter the choice the fans back home are making, veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper can feel the positivity, a position that seemed almost unthinkable just 12 months ago.

"We've got many successful codes going on back home, I think with rugby maybe because we haven't been performing to our potential at international level it's kind of dropped off a little bit," Ashley-Cooper said of rugby's slow climb out of the Australian sporting doldrums.

"I think, for me, being a part of the Waratahs franchise and just the rebuild that we had there, just amongst the supporters, the Waratahs supporters in Sydney, it was enough to see that rugby was back on the map. And then once we're getting into the Wallabies season you could see a love again for the game.

"And I'd like to think the way that we've been playing over the last 12 months was a bit of a catalyst for that and that's exactly what we want to do, we want to inspire and entertain our supporters, our fans."

Having felt the pain of a quarter-final exit in 2007 and then a crushing semi-final defeat in New Zealand four years ago, Ashley-Cooper understands better than most just how small the margin for error is for the Wallabies at this year's tournament.

Conversely, he too understands what a third World Cup triumph would mean for the game in Australia.

"I think it is just important to every Australian," he said. "And that's probably the best thing about this group at the moment is that we're really starting to understand and appreciate that it's bigger than us. It's much bigger than us, it's very very important to very many people back home and if that doesn't overwhelm you, it really inspires and motivates you. So it's a good thing."

Wednesday night's 28-13 triumph over Fiji represented much of what has been good and bad for the Wallabies over the last 12 months. There were periods of positive phase play and set-piece dominance - which resulted in two rolling maul tries - before the simplest of errors arrived in general play and then at the lineout.

In is post-match review from Cardiff, ESPN columnist Greg Growden suggested the Wallabies were suffering an "identity crisis" - describing them as a team "riddled with inconsistencies".

On the evidence of their play at Millennium Stadium it's a claim that's hard to argue with.

But they have time to fix things, starting with Sunday's clash against minnows Uruguay, a match coach Michael Cheika has already confirmed he will largely field a B-team in, and then the week leading up to their clash with tournament hosts England at Twickenham.

There is undoubtedly plenty of work to be done but, according to Ashley-Cooper anyway, there is, for once, little to be done away from the training paddock. It's a far cry from last year's text-messaging saga that prompted the resignation of coach Ewen McKenzie.

"I think probably just how we are going about our job on the field, you know we have been doing a lot of work on our own identity, our individual identities and our team Wallaby identity," Ashley-Cooper replied when asked how the squad had recovered some of the respect lost last year.

"And each day at training or each week playing a Test, we go out there not to play to win or lose; it's about playing to our identity and I think if we do that week in, week out, the results take care of itself.

"And that identity is about playing with no fear, never taking a backward step, having a physical edge, being physical and being relentless in defence - all these sets of values that are very very important to us and that we believe that embodies the Wallaby jersey or the Australian player.

"And I think in that, it's caught the eye of the Australian audience and the supporter, and I think we've earned the respect again."