RUGBY

Hooper re­places Moore as Wal­la­bies cap­tain

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Michael Hooper was yes­ter­day named as the new Wal­la­bies cap­tain, re­plac­ing the soon-to-re­tire Stephen Moore as the team builds to­wards the 2019 World Cup in Ja­pan. The open­side flanker was pre­ferred to David Po­cock, who is on sab­bat­i­cal, and will lead the side in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship opener against the All Blacks in Syd­ney on Au­gust 19.

The 25-year-old Hooper, who has played 68 Tests, has en­dured a dif­fi­cult Su­per Rugby sea­son with the un­der-per­form­ing NSW Waratahs and his lead­er­ship of the side and form has been un­der ques­tion.

But Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika said he was the right man for the job. Moore had al­ready an­nounced that he will re­tire from in­ter­na­tional rugby at the end of the year. “Michael al­ways shows on the field how much he loves the gold jer­sey and that’s why he is to­tally re­spected among the rugby play­ers in Australia,” Cheika said.

“His role as the leader of this team will also be about mak­ing the stan­dards of the Aus­tralian rugby team the high­est they can pos­si­bly be.” Moore, who has been capped 120 times, will con­tinue to play for the Wal­la­bies, help­ing Hooper’s tran­si­tion, un­til the end of Australia’s Euro­pean tour in Novem­ber.

“It’s a huge hon­our to just wear the Wal­la­bies jer­sey, let alone cap­tain the side,” said Hooper. “It’s what you do in the jer­sey that’s most im­por­tant and I get an­other crack at show­ing what it means to me against New Zealand in Syd­ney in a fort­night.

“There are quite a few good young lead­ers in this team like Bernard (Fo­ley), Adam (Cole­man), Samu (Kerevi) and Al­lan (Alaala­toa), so we’ll be work­ing to­gether to take this team to a new level. “I’m re­ally ex­cited about what we can achieve in the next four months. It is a very special op­por­tu­nity for all of us, and we’ll be do­ing all we can to show that pride in the jer­sey.”

The Syd­ney-born Hooper has al­ready cap­tained the side in the ab­sence of Moore. He was called up to re­place the in­jured veteran in Australia’s 2014 June Test se­ries against France, be­com­ing the third-youngest Wal­la­bies skip­per in his­tory at age 22.

It was a rude awak­en­ing for him dur­ing a time when Kurt­ley Beale was at­tract­ing head­lines for ar­gu­ing with team man­age­ment and the abrupt de­par­ture of for­mer coach Ewen McKen­zie. “I feel like I’ve grown up a lot,” Hooper said in June, look­ing back at be­ing thrown into the deep end at such a young age. “I’ve learned a lot of things since then and learned off a lot of peo­ple, be­ing in­volved with some good old heads over the last cou­ple of years has done a lot for me.”

Australia’s Michael Hooper has the ball knocked from his grasp by Eng­land’s Chris Rob­shaw.

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