Wallabies back row can improve with time: Hooper

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Wallabies openside flanker Michael Hooper says Australia’s back row can continue to grow.

Already one of the most damaging combinations in the Rugby World Cup, Hooper and number David Pocock played a full 80 minutes together in Sunday’s semi-final for the first since the Wallabies’ pool match against England three weeks ago.

The “Pooper” didn’t miss a beat on their reunion and the Wallabies benefitted from Pocock’s impact at the breakdown, with the number eight winning eight turnovers.

Blindside flanker Scott Fardy had his best game of the tournament, coming out of the line on a number of occasions to put pressure on Argentina and finishing with 14 tackles.

Hooper said the trio could continue to improve if given enough time.

“Big Fards has already split himself again tonight, putting his head in all the tough places but the back row’s working as a nice collective,” he said.

“We’re doing the same things and we’re really complementing each other’s game and I’m really enjoying playing with them.

“You just want more time to work that out and get better.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said Fardy’s impact was a result of stronger decision making in defence.

“I think they work really hard for that team and what they’re getting better at is picking the moments to go,” he said.

“Fardy came up and gave a few nice hits from outside to in. You can’t do that all the time because you’ll get picked off.”

Cheika praised all three of the back rowers post-match, Hooper in his milestone game and Pocock making it through a full game in his return from a calf injury.

“In Michael’s 50th cap, I thought he was excellent,” he said.

“And David off the back of his injury, playing a full 80 minutes was a great effort.”

When Fardy was eventually replaced by Ben McCalman, the latter managed to continue his form as an impact player coming off the bench, in what was his first run at six this tournament.

McCalman, who started in place of Pocock against Scotland, said the competitive 15-on-15 training sessions had helped shore up their combinations in every form.

‘We’ve got a great combination there,” he said.

“That happens through training as well, we do a lot of 15 on 15. There’s competition on positions but it’s more about helping each other out.”

“My role (off the bench) is to come on and lift the tempo of the game.”