Ashley-Cooper stirs Waratahs with emotional address

Waratahs vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Waratahs vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

SUPER RUGBY 

A stirring 15-minute address from vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper has the NSW Waratahs primed to end 18 years of frustration and despair with victory in Saturday night's Super Rugby final against the Crusaders.

The Waratahs gathered in a tight huddle after training on Thursday as Ashley-Cooper delivered a heartfelt speech outlining how much it meant to be part of the Waratahs' "special" quest for a maiden title.

Prop Sekope Kepu revealed Ashley-Cooper's call to arms came in the form of a poignant poem he penned himself about each and every member of the Waratahs' 30-man squad.

"It sent shivers down my spine. It was pretty emotional stuff," Kepu said.

"Whether we're meant to share it or not, but it tells a lot about what we've built this year as a team and the bonds and everything.

"Regardless of whether you're in the 22 or not, everyone's really bought into the culture and everyone loves being around each other."

Michael Cheika has coached in Italy, France and Ireland, guiding Leinster to European Cup glory in 2009, but says he's never been closer to a team than he has this season at the Waratahs.

Kepu says the players feel the same way and that it "can't get any better" than hearing Ashley-Cooper's touching tribute to his teammates.

"When someone goes to that length and includes 30-odd blokes in a poem, touching a little bit about his experience with them or where they've come from, it's pretty special," he said.

"Everyone just loves being among the team and hopefully that goes a long way to what we're facing on Saturday."

The NSW Rugby Union on Thursday said it had sold more than 50,000 tickets to the final at ANZ Stadium, ensuring the biggest crowd for a Waratahs home game in more than 100 years.

It will eclipse the record of 49,237 set at the SCG for a clash with New Zealand in 1907.

Not surprisingly, Kepu dismissed Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder's claim this week that the Waratahs had given up their home-ground advantage by not playing at their Allianz Stadium fortress.

"We'll play them on Anzac Parade if we have to," Kepu said.

"We've got a good record there all season. We've won two big games out there.

"Regardless what they say, it's a chance for us to perform in front of our fans and that's something that we wanted to revolutionise this year."

Kepu admitted he was desperate to capitalise on the rare chance for the Waratahs to finally bring the trophy to Sydney.

"We haven't lifted it, so it's long overdue," he said.

"It's our chance to make a bit of history."

AAP

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