SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Michael Hooper was Wednesday 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.”