Wallabies suffer huge setback ahead of Rugby Champs opener
SQUAD NEWS: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has withdrawn from Saturday’s Test against Argentina and will be returning to Australia due to personal reasons.
The 121-Test openside flank revealed he’s not in the mindset to fulfil the responsibility that goes with leading and representing his country at this point in time.
He has addressed his teammates to tell them and that he has the utmost confidence in the group to get the job done tomorrow in Mendoza.
Fellow Test centurion James Slipper will lead the side in Mendoza, while Fraser McReight will replace Hooper in the number seven jersey.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said: “While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time.”
“My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don’t feel I am able to fulfil my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset.”
#⃣PREVIEW: We take a look at @SanzarTRC match between @lospumas & @wallabies in #Mendoza on #Saturday
🤔That’s a big call✅#Rugby 🏉#RugbyUnion🌍#ARGvAUS 🇦🇷V🇦🇺
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) August 5, 2022
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said there was no inkling of Hooper’s personal struggle as they prepared for the Mendoza Test until the 30-year-old sought help from the Wallabies team doctor Sharron Flahive, who put the wheels in motion for his return home.
He will travel back to Sydney with his Waratahs teammate Dave Porecki, who is unavailable for both Tests due to a training head knock.
Rennie said it was a courageous decision by father-of-one Hooper, normally a very private character, to admit he needed help.
“Nothing that was evident to us in how he trained – how he contributed around the team, around leadership was excellent – but clearly he’s been struggling a bit and masking that pretty well,” Rennie told reporters from Argentina on Saturday.
“Obviously he’s been able to suppress things over the past handful of weeks and so we certainly weren’t aware of anything but he’s such a professional and he was able to get on and do the job.
“He addressed the team on Saturday which took an enormous amount of courage to let them know that he’s not OK and that he felt it was best for himself and for the team that he gets home.
“It was an easy decision to let him go home where he will get plenty of support around him.”
The Wallabies, who have a World Cup in France next year, return to Australia for Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa and New Zealand beginning later this month.
Rennie said Hooper hadn’t given any indication regarding his playing future and they didn’t have a timeline for a return to action.
He praised his player for being a role model for men.
“It’s not uncommon in life, is it? It’s a cross-section of society and often men will say bugger all and suffer in silence so it took a lot of courage to address the group,” Rennie said.
“He has a huge amount of respect from everyone and we want to get him home and get him as much support as we can.”
Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos said: “Michael is an incredible leader, it takes a brave man to identify where he’s at and come forward whilst having the best interests of the team at heart.”
“His wellbeing is and remains the highest priority right now where Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby community will do everything to support him and his family.”