Hooper still nutting out contract details

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper says he wants to stay in Australian rugby, but a new contract announcement is still a little way off.

Hooper comes off-contract at the end of 2018, with recent reports suggesting Hooper had been offered a five-year deal to stay with the Wallabies and Waratahs, a contract that would take him through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Hooper said he was keen to play in Australia, but the details of a deal were yet to be nutted out.

“I'd be a fool not to give it a bit of thought," he said.

Like anybody's job, you've got to give a bit of thought to it and get the right outcome.

“I love playing here in Australia, I think - firstly, we're so lucky to live and play rugby in a city like Sydney and I think Australian rugby has so much to give and that really excites me.

“It's a work in progress. Still details are being worked through.”

Michael Hooper has grown into his leadership roles. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHooper has played all of his rugby in Australia, growing up on the northern beaches, and though he would be in high demand overseas, the flanker appears to have plenty left to achieve with the Wallabies.

The 26-year-old has often said he is still on a learning curve, particularly when it comes to leadership, after taking the captaincy mantle for the first time at just 22.

Though his contract negotiations are going on in the background, Hooper’s focus this weekend is on the Highlanders and ensuring his team can final

The Waratahs gave away two yellow cards against the Crusaders and Hooper said he wanted to help ensure it didn’t happen again.

“I think that's due to just a bit of anxiety of where we're at in the game and knowing that the Crusaders were coming and maybe we thought about that rather than what was working for us in the first half,” he said.

“As a captain, how I get that across to your 23 men is tricky and it's a learning process for myself.

“If yellow cards do occur, how we deal with them is really important.

“Probably something that we haven't focused on too much as a group in my time, of how to deal with when you are down, what positions are down, key positions like Nick (Phipps) being down on the weekend, your number nine, that's a huge change to a key position on the field.

“We've got to have 15 men on the field, particularly against top teams and they made us pay there on the weekend.”

The Highlanders have named fullback Ben Smith, despite speculation the All Blacks 15 was going to be rested as per the national side’s requirements, and his inclusion is something Hooper welcomed.

“He's an outstanding player, really enjoy playing against the bloke,” he said.

“It’s going to be a great match up between him and Israel on the weekend, both outstanding in the air.

“I'm very happy he's playing.”

The Waratahs currently sit on top of the Australian conference, two points clear of the Rebels who are on a bye week, and a win would give them some valuable clear air in that top spot.

“Every game's important for us now - we're at that point in the season where it's really pointy and (if we) miss an opportunity this week, what does that do next week?,” he said.

“The Rebels have a bye weekend, so it's an opportunity to get a bit of space there but the key for us is just confidence and momentum.

“We get that and it'll do us well.”

The Waratahs host the Highlanders on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.