When Australia runs out onto ANZ Stadium on August 19, it will be from behind a new captain. In news out of Australian Rugby, Michael Hooper inherits Wallabies leadership for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
The 68 Test flanker steps in, after current skipper Stephen Moore indicated he would end his International career after the November Tests. So Michael Cheika chose the current Waratahs skipper to lead his charges from the August 19 fixture on.
“It’s a huge honour to just wear the Wallabies jersey, let alone captain the side,” Hooper said in a media release. “I’m extremely grateful to [coach Michael Cheika] but also to Steve [Moore] for all that he’s done for me and the team.”
JUST IN: Michael Hooper has taken over @qantaswallabies captaincy!
Congratulations, Hoops ??https://t.co/5ySsAkiUfZ pic.twitter.com/NOXtJP3Tn1
— NSW Waratahs (@NSWWaratahs) August 2, 2017
Hooper has already assumed a senior role within the Wallabies, having nearly played 70 Tests before the age of 26. At that rate, the loose forward could threaten George Gregans record of 139 Tests.
The honour was deserved, said the head coach. “His record as a player speaks for itself but he’s exactly the type of man we want see in rugby – connected to his school, a great club man.” And those values are key to the success of the side. Hooper needs to refresh the Wallabies fortunes.
“I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the next 4 months.”
“It is a very special opportunity for all of us, and we’ll be doing all we can to show that pride in the jersey,” the new captain said.
Wallabies Train-On Squad Includes Many New Faces
Michael Cheika has brought in a large group to prepare for the upcoming matches. Considering that there are no teams in the Super Rugby semifinals/final, they have ample time to devote to improving the players mindset.
With the collected franchises poor performance, many will feel that a step-up to the International level would be difficult. Cheika, and now new captain Hooper, must ‘press the right buttons’. Re-ignite the fighting spirit that the Wallabies are famous for. Going backwards since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the side has to aim high in 2017.
Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Jermaine Ainsley*, Sam Carter, Adam Coleman, Pek Cowan, Jack Dempsey, Kane Douglas, Sef Fa’agase*, Tetera Faulkner, Ned Hanigan, Richard Hardwick, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Adam Korczyk*, Sean McMahon, Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda*, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Lopeti Timani, Taniela Tupou*, Jordan Uelese*.
Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete*, Tevita Kuridrani, Campbell Magnay*, Billy Meakes*, Sefa Naivalu, Izaia Perese*, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell, Curtis Rona*, Henry Speight.
* uncapped player
Players not considered due to injury: Kyle Godwin, Karmichael Hunt, Tolu Latu, Eto Nabuli, Lukhan Tui, James Slipper.
First Assignment – The Rugby Championship
Michael Hooper will assume the wallabies leadership with a huge task ahead. Even with the best intentions, his side will face the All Blacks to begin with–the toughest opposition in World Rugby.
The match also is a challenge for the Bledisloe Cup. Not since 2015, have the Wallabies beaten the World Champions. Their recent record shows that Australia has not held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002. The past 15 seasons have been more in the New Zealand sides favour, so that must be priority one.
Achieve a result in Sydney, and Hooper will have the perfect start. It may also redress some of the recent disappointment of Australian Rugby. The nation is under extreme internal pressures; Super Rugby being at the forefront, but the wider train-on group gives Michael Cheika a grasp of which players will assist him to achieve his sides objectives.
Wallabies Need to Inspire the Next Generation
The National Rugby Championship (NRC) is another. That state competition is a critical apparatus for the International game. The grassroots are integral to the Wallabies success. If the players within the NRC see a pathway, they will stay within the game. Not leave for greener pastures, or to make money off of the shoulders of past Wallabies like Gregan.
The next generation is key. Hooper is seen as the link-man. A transition leader, one that has a foot in each camp. He has been within the established side for over seven years. But he is still young enough to be aware of the modern game. He can also be that inspiration for the young player base.
All roads lead to Tokyo 2019. Small steps leading up to that include The Rugby Championship, and Bledisloe Cup–including the final match on October 21. Last Word on Rugby will be at that fixture, and with any luck for the Wallabies, Michael Hooper will be smiling.
If he can bring his own energy and dynamism to the Wallabies leadership role, then [possibly] come Brisbane, he could be holding a cup that has been missing from the Wallabies trophy cabinet for over a decade.