Wallabies veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper will play at next year's World Cup if he's good enough.
That's the simple message from coach Michael Cheika, who has welcomed the prospect of a return to Australian rugby for Ashley-Cooper as he targets a fourth World Cup appearance.
Cheika says there will be no promises for the experienced utility back who turns 35 in March, but is reportedly in talks with the NSW Waratahs and Western Force over a domestic comeback.
Ashley-Cooper's old club, the Waratahs, are believed to have the inside running given they play Super Rugby and the Force no longer do.
Ashley-Cooper quit NSW at the end of the 2015 season to move to French Top 14 outfit Bordeaux Begels and has been playing for Kobe Steelers in Japan's Top League since last year.
But he has never officially retired from Test rugby.
Cheika said he had already spoken to Ashley-Cooper about his chances of pulling on the green and gold again.
"I didn't have to say anything because he took the words out of my mouth," Cheika said.
"He said, 'I'm not looking for any favours or entrees or anything, I want to come back through Super Rugby, prove myself that I'm good enough to take the spot.'
"And if he plays good enough in Super Rugby, then he'll get an opportunity I'd imagine like any other player.
"There's no accords, no guarantees and he doesn't want it that way. If he does come back he'll want to earn it himself.
"That's the quality of the man, that's what Ashley-Cooper's about.
"I haven't spoken to him a lot since he's been away, but I think if he makes (that) decision ... it's funny what players can do when they set themselves a serious goal."
Ashley-Cooper played at the 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups and would add experience and versatility to Australia's campaign at next year's showpiece event in Japan.
Former teammate Kurtley Beale suspects he wouldn't be coming home if he didn't think he was at least a chance.
"He wants to come back and prove a point and achieve a lot more for himself in the game," Beale said.
"He'd definitely influence the young guys in the group and how we want to go.
"He's got to prove himself at the moment to come back (but) it'd be awesome to have a quality player like (him) back."
Australian Associated Press