Planet Rugby

Hooper the key player - Saint-André

02nd June 2014 14:17

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Philippe Saint Andre at a French press conference

Hooper watch: Saint-André

France coach Philippe Saint-André has likened openside Michael Hooper to George Smith ahead of their three-Test Series against the Wallabies.

Saint-André believes the 22-year-old is similar to Smith, who was capped 111 times by his country, in that he is king at the turnovers and is sharp.

"He reminds me of George Smith and I coached George at Toulon and I feel he's (Hooper) improved a lot," he told reporters in Brisbane.

"In the contact area he's often the first to get his hands on the ball.

"Any contested ball, he creates a lot of turnovers and when you know the quality and the skills and the speed of the Australian backs he's a key player for that.

"We have done a lot of work on the ruck contest and we showed how much he contested in the Tests in November. We saw how many turnovers he gets, and one was brilliant against Wales, which saw a fantastic try by the backline."

Meanwhile, Les Bleus flanker Thierry Dusautoir also highlighted the threat of Hooper.

"We have to work hard on our rucks to be efficient because we really fear him," he said.

In injury news ahead of the first Test, France are sweating over the fitness of centre Mathieu Bastareaud who is nursing a small fracture to this nose he picked up in the Top 14 Final.

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