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Folau to sign multi-year deal as Ashley-Cooper eyes fourth World Cup

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 5 days ago Georgina Robinson
On the cusp: Israel Folau is likely to stay in Waratahs blue next year. © AAP On the cusp: Israel Folau is likely to stay in Waratahs blue next year.

Israel Folau is on the verge of signing a three-year deal to stay in Australian rugby as Test veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper edges closer to a record-equalling fourth World Cup campaign with the Wallabies.

NSW Rugby boss Andrew Hore confirmed the Waratahs were in talks to welcome back Super Rugby title-winning back Ashley-Cooper and said a deal with Folau was "imminent", while Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said he hoped the paperwork would be signed this week.

Fairfax Media understands the parties have still not come to a final agreement but that a three-year deal to stay in NSW is the likely outcome.

If realised, it would represent a triumph for all involved after almost six months of protracted talks that spanned injury, off-field controversy, a flirtation with the Reds, a Matt Burke Cup honour at the Waratahs and a season of highs and lows in the blue and gold jerseys.

"I don't know where it's going to finish exactly, I hope it's going to get finalised this week, but we're keen for him to stay as close as he can for as long as he can," Cheika told Fox Sports earlier in the week.

"We've invested now in him and you can see his versatility in the game now where he's able to move from position to position even in a game and I think he's still getting some of the ropes."

Hore said the Waratahs were close on both Folau and Test No.10 Bernard Foley, who is likely to re-sign for just another 12 months before heading overseas after the 2019 World Cup.

Hore also green-lighted the return of Ashley-Cooper to NSW as the 116-Test utility eyes a fourth World Cup. The 34-year-old is playing in Japan with the Kobe Steelers but has had an Australian comeback on his mind since the beginning of the year.

"Adam Ashley-Cooper has expressed an interest," he said. "We think in a year such as a World Cup year, where depth is going to be important, that we can see merit in Adam coming back. Everyone speaks very highly of his character and leadership is a valuable asset.

"Those discussions are live so we will see where that goes."

The Waratahs' back line will be in rude health if all three players re-sign but their pack is a different story, with Test prop Tom Robertson ruled out until the middle of next season with a knee injury.

The Waratahs will have to accelerate the development of rookie loosehead Harry Johnson-Holmes and tighthead Shambeckler Vui, as well as recent Warringah signing Rory O'Connor.

"That is an issue and we're going to have to look at opportunities there ... it's cometh the hour, cometh the man in some ways," Hore said.

In better news, abrasive breakaway Jack Dempsey has gone from strength to strength in his comeback via the National Rugby Championship and could join the Wallabies on their upcoming northern tour.

"We have a little bit of work to do in and around our pack but [Jack] Dempsey is playing well, so he'll put a bit of muscle back into that pack so there's some positive signs," Hore said.

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