England aim to ‘nullify’ Hooper

Date published: November 26 2014

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper would receive “special attention” at Twickenham.

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper would receive “special attention” in Saturday’s clash at Twickenham.

The 23-year-old flanker has been an impressive performer for Australia since winning the first of his 41 caps in June 2012, with the openside’s speed to the breakdown making him a particular threat.

“Hooper needs special attention,” said Rowntree.

“We have to nullify him at the weekend and keep him quiet.

“He’s a jack-in-the-box, he’s everywhere. His line speed and energy are superb and he’s durable as well because he doesn’t miss many minutes.

“He’s pretty central to everything Australia do offensively – and at the breakdown as well.”

Speed to the breakdown, and the ensuing supply of quick ball, is central to Australia’s game-plan as it gives their talented backline as much time as possible to cause maximum damage to their opponents.

“You want clean ball at your breakdown,” said Rowntree.

“We work on ball speed every day.

“We’ve got to go under four and a half seconds for ours and anything over that that we can give them, the better. We work on that constantly.

“Ball speed’s important. If we can get that ball speed down to under four seconds then we’re in business.

“Historically against Australia we are under four seconds. You’d be surprised how quick the ball is that we get against the All Blacks and how we can slow their breakdown down as well.

“Between four and five seconds is acceptable. If it’s between four and six, then we’ve got problems.

“It doesn’t sound much, but it’s a big difference.”

Saturday’s match has been given added spice by the fact 2015 World Cup hosts England are in the same pool as Australia at next year’s global showpiece tournament.

England’s win over Samoa on Saturday came just hours after Australia went down 26-23 to Ireland in Dublin.

It was Australia’s second straight loss under new coach Michael Cheika following last week’s equally narrow 29-26 defeat by France.

England too have had a similar experience against top-class opposition this month, suffering three-point defeats by world champions New Zealand (24-21) and South Africa (31-28) at Twickenham before overcoming Samoa.

Saturday’s match will be both England and Australia’s final international of 2014.