Wallabies captain Michael Hooper says he is on track to play in the first Bledisloe Cup game after successfully completing his first full day’s training with the Test squad at the Cessnock camp.
Hooper hasn’t played since suffering a significant tear in his hamstring in the third Test against Ireland in Sydney in June.
The Aussie skipper was unable to play for the Waratahs during their finals run, and only began working with the Wallabies rehab squad on partial duties two weeks ago.
But on the back of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika declaring confidence in Hooper making it back in time for the opening clash with New Zealand on August 18, the open side flanker joined the main squad for a full day’s training in the Hunter Valley on Monday.
Hooper’s natural fitness had him leading the way in several drills but he said while being on track to return to peak shape by next week, he wasn’t there yet.
"Yeah it’s feeling good. I am a little off the pace," Hooper told RUGBY.com.au.
"It’s the first real footy I have played in over six weeks but I am comfortable in how the injury has progressed in getting here and I have had great rehab.
"I am putting myself in the best position to get myself right for the first game."
There were concerning rumours Hooper wouldn’t be right by the opening Bledisloe Cup game but those appeared to be quashed on Monday.
Hooper said he’d need to pass a test next week but a full week’s preparation with the squad would have him highly confident.
“Hiccups aside, with a week of training, I should be in a good position next week,” he said.
“I don’t want to ever get better at that (watching from the sideline). I want to get back on the field but its given me a different perspective at some of the great things that go on around rugby. It’s been enjoyable to give my body a rest but I want to get back on the field.”
Hooper watched enthusiastically from the sidelines during the Wallabies trial last Friday and threw his support behind making it an annual event.
“I thoroughly enjoyed watching that game, not only from our players' perspective, which was fantastic, but the Super side, they threw a lot of physicality at our boys which was fantastic,” he said.
“But also just as a spectacle, watching from the sideline and for everyone who came out, it was a great showing.
“I have heard the guys felt that really big contact and have some soreness and so on, and it was great mental preparation leading into the game too.
“There would have been pressure to not lose that game, to start with, and to also turn in good performance. They all did a good job.”
The Wallabies take on the All Blacks on Saturday August 18 at ANZ Stadium, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.