Hooper to play smarter in 2018

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper wants to play smarter rugby in 2018, as NSW prepares for round one.

Hooper’s seemingly never-tiring engine has become a hallmark of his game in 79 Wallabies Tests and 96 Super Rugby caps, but he is aware he needs a level of self preservation as his career continues.

Though he won’t be dialling down his intensity, the flanker said he’d be using it more efficiently.

“Picking my times better in each thing I do to have an impact on the game would be nice rather than running (at everything) - I don't have that in my legs anymore,” he said.

“It's something I can definitely improve on and in back end parts of the game, you may have more energy in the tank to do something.”

Hooper will lead out a vastly different side on the weekend than the last time the Waratahs played, with nine new faces across the weekend and two debutants on the bench, in Harry Johnson-Holmes and Nick Palmer.

The Stormers will be a difficult prospect up forward for the Waratahs but they’ll also present a defensive challenge, with an electric back three that includes Springboks speedster Dillyn Leyds.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said they would be wary of both elements, but backed his changed up forward pack to match it with the Cape Town side.

“The Stormers are a physical set piece team and then also they've got a different edge to them now with the style of game they're going to attempt to play and also the speed they have on the wings,” he said.

“It's a real challenge - obviously our challenge first and foremost is that set piece battle.

“We've picked them for a reason. We've selected and recruited the way we have because we want to be a hard working no-nonsense pack that's very mobile and fit. That's certainly the identity we've carved and tried to forge for ourselves.

“To be able to do all those things, you need to be good in the core areas - scrum and lineout and those are the areas that are going to be tested on Saturday night.”

Hooper said a disappointing set piece performance against the Rebels at Brookvale could be a blessing in disguise for round one.

“If you had a perfect run last week, maybe you would've taken your foot off the pedal a bit,” he said.

“It's not a bad little wake-up call to have, that's why you have trials. 

“We came up against a good lineout operator in Adam Coleman there and he showed us we weren't up to scratch.

“I'm happy with that result and happy we've been able to work on that this week and potentially have it as a strength.”

The Waratahs take on the Stormers at Allianz Stadium on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au radio. Buy tickets here.