Quarter-final door not closed for Hooper

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

It might be a long shot but the Waratahs will be giving captain Michael Hooper every chance to play in this weekend’s quarter-final against the Highlanders.

Hooper has missed the past three matches with a hamstring injury he suffered in the Wallabies’ third June Test against Ireland, replaced in the NSW starting lineup by in-form flanker Will Miller.

He was back running last week and ran the water for the Waratahs against the Brumbies but appears a slim chance of suiting up for the quarter-final on Saturday night.

The Wallabies and Waratahs skipper has a long season still to come post-Super Rugby but forwards coach Simon Cron did not entirely rule out the possibility of Hooper making a dramatic return.

“To be honest if Hoops gets a sniff that he's okay, he'll play,” he said.

Michael Hooper is expecting a tough clash with the Brumbies. Photo: Getty Images“He's that kind of guy and I don't think the medical team will be silly around their decision making process, they'll be pretty intelligent, they'll know whether he's good to go or not.

“If they say there's potential then he would be the guy that would jump at it, I don't think you'd have a choice.

“I think my feeling is medically he wouldn't be right, but it’s one day at a time with Hoops, I'd suggest.”

The Waratahs have plenty to work on if they want to give Hooper another chance to play Super Rugby this season, after a surprise defeat at the Brumbies’ hands, with defence and set piece at the top of the list.

Hooker would appear to be the only other position in the Waratahs team in line for potential change, with Tolu Latu putting pressure on incumbent Damien Fitzpatrick.

The Waratahs lost four of their own lineouts against the Brumbies, three before Latu was injected into the game, but Cron said those set piece issues wouldn't necessarily push the scales in Latu's favour.

“It's interesting they had 40 minutes each and Tolu did a good job in that second half of the game. one of the discussions we'll have (is),’Is there any point in switching that around?’, so we've just got to work out what's best for the squad as a whole," he said.

“I like them both, I think they're both really good hookers, both very good players.

“Those lineout losses, you can't put down to Fitzy, we called to a loaded pod and that's our fault.

“As a group in terms of our rugby brains so we can fix that pretty quickly.”

The Highlanders will be a far different challenge to that posed by the Brumbies and Cron said they were anticipating some surprises from Aaron Mauger and his ‘innovative’ coaching staff.

“Their coaches are innovative and they'll no doubt come in with some special plays to try and manipulate our defence to create space,” he said.

“That's what we expect from them and we've just got to be better.”

The Waratahs take on the Highlanders in their Super Rugby quarter-final on Saturday July 21, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.