'Someone who has the ability to dominate their jersey': Why Rennie chose Hooper as Wallabies captain

International
by Christy Doran

It's spring time and the next generation of talent is starting to show real signs of growth, but Dave Rennie isn't concerned that he's made life difficult for himself by reappointing Michael Hooper as Wallabies captain.

It's the same conundrum his predecessor Michael Cheika faced: What to do about Hooper and arguably the world's best openside flanker of his generation, David Pocock?

In the end, Cheika played them both in his back-row when Pocock was fit and available.

And so that very same question has followed Rennie.

Indeed, the same question popped its head up at the Queensland Reds too, where Brad Thorn ultimately shifted his captain Liam Wright from openside flanker to the blindside to accommodate Junior Wallabies skipper Fraser McReight.


By the end of Super Rugby AU too, it became apparent that if he wasn't already knocking on the Rennie's Wallabies door that it was only a matter of time before McReight was banging on it by the way he finished the season.

But Rennie, at least for now, doesn't feel he's boxed himself into a corner by selecting Hooper as his captain and thinks he can wear the No.7 jersey for a long while to come.

"No I wouldn’t say concerned," Rennie told reporters on Wednesday.

"I think Hoops has been excellent. He’s tough and he’s passionate about the team, he ticks a lot of boxed for us.

"I think it’s been good for him (not to lead the Waratahs), it’s been a chance for him to reflect on leadership and how he engages with referees.

"He’s still going to have to earn the right to play and he’s done that so far.

"We’re not scared to make tough decisions but we’re also selecting someone who we believe has the ability to dominate their jersey, so that’s the reason for the decision."

Nor will there be any chance of resentment to emerge either, with Hooper and McReight roommates for the week in the Hunter Valley.

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Eventually, it could come to a situation where a new captain emerges.

It did with England when Owen Farrell took over from Dylan Hartley in 2018, so to with Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi who ended up leading South Africa to World Cup glory where he faced questions all the way to the final about his selection in the starting side.

Interestingly, too, Rennie chose not to opt for co-captains either, something the New Zealander has done previously with Glasgow and the Chiefs.

"I had three years in Glasgow and six years at the Chiefs where we had co-captains in all of those," he said.

"It’s certainly something we thought about but when it comes to your national side I think it’s easier to have one man with the ‘c’ next to his name and good leaders around him."

 

Even though he had chosen Hooper long ago, Rennie waited until Sunday, the first day of the Wallabies' camp in 2020, to tell the 28-year-old that he was his chosen candidate to captain Australia.

He said that he had spoken to a wide group of players to ask for their opinion on Hooper's leadership.

"He’s certainly hugely respected within this team," Rennie said.

"I spoke to a lot of players over the last few months about their views on him and his leadership style and he got really glowing reports from the players as well, so in the end it was a pretty easy decision."

Hooper is Australia's third most capped Wallabies captain (46) and will likely overtake John Eales (55) George Gregan (59) in the coming years.

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