Michael Hooper says he is still finding his groove in the Waratahs’ senior playing group after stepping down as captain last month.
Hooper decided to relinquish the Waratahs captaincy this year, announcing the move just before the start of Super Rugby, replaced by Rob Simmons, with Kurtley Beale his vice-caption..
The flanker said at the time that the “taxing” nature of balancing the Waratahs and Wallabies captaincy had begun to take its toll.
A month into the season, Hooper said it had been somewhat of an adjustment for him to step back from duties that had become part of his routine.
“It hasn't been easy because that stuff you were talking about had become the norm for me, speaking every week, a lot of the stuff around the field so it's actually been, I think I would've said this, it was almost a harder decision to be, to step away and find a new role within the team,” he said.
“I'm still working on that, how I can best assist Simmo and Kurtley to do their thing and what role do I fit in and around that.
“It has been a time where I've had to rethink and rejig and think about that off the field.”
While he might not have the c next to his name or be the man making the in-game calls, Hooper said he still had a voice on the field, particularly in tough situations.
“If I step back completely, it would've been weird,” he said.
“So I think it's about, it's not about thinking what I need to step back from but now (thinking about) what is my role and have some purpose around what is my role on the field. R
“Rather than in the points in the game where it's like, "Maybe I don't do this, maybe I don't do that" it's, ‘What's my job now?’.
“For me, that helps me stay on the path of my personal performance and how I can best assist the team.”
When he made the Waratahs call, Hooper expressed his desire to remain Wallabies captain but said it wasn’t something that came up in a “brief” meeting with new coach Dave Rennie earlier this month.
Hooper’s more immediate focus is on helping the Waratahs break their 2020 duck against the Lions.
And the key to that, he said, was keeping things simple.
“When we got down to it, it was just about being clear on what our role is, what we're trying to be as a team on the field and simplifying that.
“You can't be everything and perhaps we were trying to be everything and then nothing at the end of the day.
“That's why things look scattered and didn't look intent on certain things and what we've tried to look at is sharpening some of our stuff, sharpening our messaging, sharpening our focal points for the week so when we go out there and the pressure comes on, which every game’s going to bring this year, we’re able to stick to the task.
“We have been in all games this year, we have shown patches but the patchy stuff hasn't been enough.
“We're looking just to come back to our messages that we've talked about all week.”
While the Super Rugby season is barely a month old, Hooper admitted a win now would be a more than handy boost in a season where they are really transitioning into a new era.
“When you get a win, you get a nice little injection of confidence that what we're doing is the right track.
“We're aware it's still early days - we've played three, we've got 13 left and you don't need to win the comp now but you need to start to get moving and that's what we need to do.”
The Waratahs take on the Lions on Friday February 28 at Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta, kicking off at 7:15pm AEDT, LIVE on Foxtel, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. The women take on the Brumbies earlier in the day, kicking off at 4:35pm AEDT, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Foxtel and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here.