Hooper backs McMahon to fire

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by Beth Newman

Michael Hooper says he always knew Sean McMahon has something special, but the newest Wallabies number eight has developed a lethal weapon in recent seasons - consistency.

McMahon has been named at number eight for Saturday night’s Test, in what will be his first start in the position at any senior level but Hooper said it wasn’t a risk.

When asked whether the backrow dynamic would stay the same with a new addition, Hooper was pretty blunt.

“Yep, yep, it’ll be great,” he said.

“We just expect him to be doing what he’s been doing all year, play extremely well, carry very hard and defensively he’s unreal.”

Sean McMahon set the World U20s alight in 2013. Photo: Getty ImagesHooper and McMahon started a Test together in the 2014 Spring Tour, when the latter debuted, and Hooper said since then the Rebels vice-captain has continued an incredible rise in Super Rugby.

“From seeing some of his U20s stuff, he’s always had it in him but his consistency of when he’s doing it and how he’s doing it have improved out of sight to the point where he’s world-class and getting a start in a really important Test match for us on Saturday,” he said.

While there’ll plenty of comparisons between McMahon and his ability to fill Pocock’s shoes on the weekend, the 21-year-old brings his own flavour to the contest. Hooper said.

“He’s a real exciting player to watch because he can create something out of nothing and the other thing that he’s grown in his game is his on-ball work," he said.

“Playing against him in the Rebels this year, his on-ball work has really improved.”

Sean McMahon will bring some extra aggression to the Wallabies line-up. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyAs well as his backrow mates, McMahon clearly has the faith of coach MIchael Cheika who said on Wednesday night, he simply couldn’t resist his form anymore.

“He's been one of the standout players for the Australian teams in Super Rugby all year and he's very passionate about how we play the game and he'll be very clear on the job he needs to do,” he said.

“I think he'll go about it very well. I believe in him a lot and what he brings and so do all the other players. I have no doubts when I put a player like that into the gold jersey.”

Sean McMahon will have his first run-on start on home soil on Saturday. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyMcMahon will give away a 26kg weight advantage to his mammoth opposite number Billy Vunipola but Cheika dismissed any concern over their size comparison.

“I'll be honest, I never considered that's an actual issue for McMahon,” he said.

“He plays the game very physical. I don't feel like he's going to be dwarfed. I know the English No.8's a big fella, but that's how it rolls sometimes."

McMahon has experience playing on the biggest stage, having replaced a suspended Hooper in Australia’s pool match against Wales in last year’s World Cup.