Wallabies suffer hammer blow ahead of Wales clash
NEWS: The Wallabies’ hopes of salvaging some pride on their tour have suffered a hammer blow with inspirational captain Michael Hooper ruled out of Saturday’s Test with Wales in Cardiff.
Hooper hobbled off during the second half of the weekend loss to England and scans have subsequently revealed a grade-two mid-foot sprain.
The champion flank will stay with the squad this week before returning to Sydney with the rest of the Wallabies on Sunday.
Officials say there’s been no timeline placed on Hooper’s recovery given the Wales clash is Australia’s last match of the year.
The Wallabies head to Cardiff hoping to avoid a first winless end-of-year tour of Europe since 1976.
A 13-15 defeat to Scotland preceded last Saturday’s 15-32 loss to England at Twickenham.
Hooper’s value to the Wallabies was underlined on Monday when the loose forward was short-listed for the 2021 World Rugby player of the year award.
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— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 15, 2021
Teammate and centre Samu Kerevi was also nominated along with French scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and English lock Maro Itoje.
No Australian has ever won the award despite 13 nominations over its 21-year history but Hooper’s shining consistency through the year must make the 30-year-old a strong chance.
Teammate Rob Valetini acknowledged it would be tough going against Wales without their talismanic leader.
“Obviously ‘Hoops’ is a massive loss,” Valetini said.
“Obviously he’s our captain but he’s probably the biggest workhorse in our team. He never stops, and that’s something that the team will miss.”
Pete Samu is set to replace Hooper or former Melbourne Rebels flank Colby Fainga’a could be a shock selection to make his Test debut after being drafted into the squad from French club Lyon.
Valetini said Hooper did more for the Wallabies than his on-field heroics and credited a talk from the captain for his growth into a regular Wallabies starter in the No.8 jersey this year.
“I’m pretty happy to translate my Super form into Test rugby,” Valetini said.
“At the start of the year, in Tests, I probably wasn’t finding my rhythm and getting into it – I was probably a bit nervous about starting and trying to replicate a good Super season.
“But then I had a chat with ‘Hoops’ and he said to me, ‘Just don’t hold back, just let everything go and play your game’ … and it just sort of happened and I started playing decent rugby.”
The Brumbies powerhouse said the Wallabies were intent on finishing the year on a high and recognised they needed to improve their discipline and errors to overcome the Welsh after giving away 18 penalties against England.
He called their multiple offside and high tackle penalties “pretty dumb”.
“We let ourselves down with our discipline – it’s hard to win a Test match when you give away 18 penalties,” Valetini said.
“It’s a new week this week and we want to end the tour on a high so we will prepare well and hopefully go out with a bang on Saturday.”
— Wallabies (@wallabies) November 15, 2021