Hooper named Wallabies captain

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Michael Hooper will lead the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe Cup match and beyond, appointed permanent captain on Wednesday.

Hooper will take over from Stephen Moore, who announced his retirement last week, with the long-time deputy stepping into the role.

Hooper has already captained the side in 15 of his 68 Wallabies Tests, filling in for an injured Moore in 2014 and stepping up in two matches of the recent June Test Series, with Moore on the bench.

Though he had long been considered Moore's obvious successor, Hooper said he wasn't preoccupied by any transition in leadership.

"Rugby's such a quick-moving world, there's so much going on week-to-week, these things don't' really come into your mind," he said.

"You've just got to be moving and running with the times and when this came across in front of me, it was shock and I guess really excited about the challenge ahead."

Michael Hooper will lead the Wallabies into the 2019 World Cup. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHooper said he felt far removed from the 22-year-old who led the Wallabeis in 2014, after Moore's knee injury.

"I'm a bit older since the last couple of times I've done it, I've grown a lot, I've been around a bit longer, couple more scars, hair's a bit shorter," he laughed.

"I've learned a lot in those couple of years and I'm super excited about learning more, with the group we've got, not only the coaching staff but the playing group that's been assembled and the wider training that we've had the last couple of weeks.

"I'm hugely proud to be able to lead those bunch of guys who are so keen to do well in this jersey."

 


Moore will still be a part of the Wallabies setup until the end of the year and Hooper said he intended to make the most of having his predecessor around.

"I'm going to be trying to get more advice off him and pull him aside going 'how was that?, what'd you think of this?," he said.

"I'm sure I'll get a straight answer from him. It'll be nice at end of the year to have a beer with him and congratulate him on what an amazing career."

Speculation that the handover would happen well before the World Cup intensified this season, with Moore coming off the pine in June amid greater competition for the starting hooker spot.At 25, Hooper looks to have a lengthy captaincy stint ahead of him. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe Wallabies’ first Test under the new leadership will be the opening Bledisloe, a challenge Hooper says his side will relish.

"New Zealand are the benchmark team to beat," he said.

"Consistent performances, week in, week out and to have the opportunity to face them back to back, as a first time as captain in this situation, hugely exciting and really for the group just a really nice challenge to have to see what we can achieve in a couple of weeks' time."

The 25-year-old has played in all but three Tests since his 2012 debut against Scotland, starting in 62 of those matches.

Hooper took over as sole Waratahs captain earlier this year as well, after previously sharing the role with Dave Dennis.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Hooper was the man to take the Wallabies to the 2019 World Cup.

"Yep, I think that you get to the world cup, Hooper's going to be pretty much at his peak, 27-28, around that time," he said.

"He's going to be at his peak as a player, he will have had a few years experience as the official captain within the team.

"I'd expect him to improve as a player as well in that  time. He'll add to his arsenal and how he plays the game and the mentality he plays the game with too. i'm looking forward to seeing him develop in that role."

The Wallabies take on New Zealand on August 19, kicking off at 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.

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