Hooper gets family onside for Wallabies
LONDON (AFP) –
Australia’s Michael Hooper has insisted he won’t have any concerns about split loyalties when Australia play England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Hooper is all set to continue at openside flanker in the ongoing absence of back-row star David Pocock, who has been ruled out of the Cook Cup Test match with a calf injury.
And if he does take the field at Twickenham it will be the first time the 21-year-old Brumbies loose forward, who has already won 10 caps since making his debut in June, will have played against England, the country where his father was born.
However, David Hooper left Britain for Australia aged 24.
But he took with him the experience of being a back-row forward with Blackheath, the south-east London side that in the 19th Century helped form both the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union,
“My dad cheers for the Wallabies, I don’t think he’d be allowed in the house if he didn’t!” Hooper junior said Tuesday.
“He will be at Twickenham. My grandparents will be there and my dad’s brother is still English so I’m not sure what flag they’ll be waving on Saturday, hopefully Australian.
“My dad’s bigger than me, so I got the wrong genes there. He loves rugby and enjoys watching Australia play.”
And as for his father’s role in his own rugby career, Hooper said: “He is probably my biggest critic and gives great advice. He’ll always give me an honest account of how I played and what I should work on.
“There’s a good mutual agreement in place — he won’t hold back on how I played which is a good thing to have.
“He tries to get to most games and is bit of a sucker for it.”
Australia had hoped to have Pocock, one of the world’s leading back-row forwards and a renowned breakdown specialist, back in action at Twickenham after being sidelined from recent Wallaby Tests with knee ligament damage, including last weekend’s 33-6 thrashing by France in Paris.
But that plan was ruined by a calf strain and now Hooper, a player in a similar mould, is looking forward to the next chapter of an “awesome” year.
“This year I just wanted to get a starting spot for (Super 15 club) the Brumbies, so it’s funny how things turn out. It’s been awesome for me,” he said.
“You want to play as much as possible and become a consistent starter. I’ve had the opportunity to do that.
“David will be back soon and that’s a good problem for the team to have.
“He’s a great player and that pushes all of the opensides in the squad to improve.”
Australia may have gone nearly three hours’ playing time without a try, an astonishing statistic given the Wallaby tradition of running rugby, but Hooper is confident they’ll have no problems raising their level against England.
“We’re going to really bring it and are excited about this game. It should be a great game,” Hooper said.
“It’s all about this weekend and making history. It’s a great rivalry between England and Australia and Twickenham is a great stadium.
“Their tails will be up after getting so many points on the board against Fiji (England beat the Pacific Islanders 54-12 at Twickenham last Saturday).
“There were 80,000 yelling at us in Paris last weekend and it was a great atmosphere. This weekend will be no different, so it was good to get that new experience out of the way.”