Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has endorsed Stephen Moore as his Test captain for June.
There had been murmurings that now might be the time for Moore to step aside, ushering in a new era, as the Wallabies hooker spot becomes more closely contested, with the form of Tatafu Polota-Nau and Tolu Latu, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup cycle well and truly underway.
Cheika has been happy with Moore’s recent form after a slow start to the year and said there was no doubt in his mind over the captaincy though endorsed Michael Hooper’s evolution as Waratahs skipper this season.
“Moorey’s going to be the captain, for sure,” he said.
“I think Moore’s playing quite well to be honest.
“His thing’s leadership, being aggressive, that’s what I want from him.
“He’s been very abrasive in there (at the Reds), getting stuck in - he’s been playing a lot of minutes too for one of the older guys in the roster but he’s doing it quite well.”
Though he has stuck by Moore, who has been Wallabies captain in every Test he’s played since 2014, Cheika had plenty of praise for vice-captain Hooper.
“I think he’s improved out of sight this year with the ‘Tahs. I think that they’ve had some difficult times there and he’s been right in the learning zone, Hoops,” he said
“It’s not been easy for him and I think he’s excelled in the way he’s evolved himself.”
Hooper’s development has generated conversation about the Test leadership, particularly in recent days after vision featuring his leadership during the Waratahs‘ win over the Rebels aired earlier this week.
Hooper has been Wallabies captain in the past, having stepped up as skipper at just 22, but he threw his support behind Moore on Thursday.
“Squeak’s been doing a fantastic job over the past couple of years,” he said.
“His voice is such a strong voice within that Wallaby group and me personally, I love getting in behind him and seeing what he has to say, and leading the Wallaby team.”
While so many things have come naturally for Hooper, becoming a great captain is still a work in progress.
The 25-year-old said NSW had brought in outside ‘leadership professionals’ to develop their skills in that area.
“It’s something I’ve been getting help with,” he said.
“So many times, my girlfriend has said this to me, she’s said, ‘You’re put into this position with no training or no help and you’re expected to do it,’ and I agreed with her.
“You’re put into these positions and you have to try and do your best.”
“I’m definitely getting older and seeing a different side of myself within rugby.
“Once upon a time, you’re turning up, you’re thinking ‘how good’s this?’ and you’re training every day and it’s just, you literally are just playing footy and it’s cool.
“There’s certainly more to it now, there’s more to it in so many different aspects and I’m really loving every bit of it.
With past vice-captain David Pocock on a sabbatical and one of last year’s deputies Rob Horne heading overseas at the end of the year, Cheika also anointed some of the next generation’s leaders.
“I think a guy like Samu Kerevi, who’s taken that leadership role, I was very happy when they gave him that role in Queensland because I think he’s a natural for it,” Cheika said.
The Wallabies play their first June Series Test on June 10 against Fiji in Melbourne. For tickets, head to ticketek.com.au/wallabies.