James Slipper: Wallabies wanted to ‘make Hoops proud’

Dylan Coetzee

Wallabies stand-in skipper James Slipper said the team’s goal was to make Michael Hooper proud with a victory over Los Pumas in Argentina.

Hooper withdrew from the squad the night before their Test match against Argentina, citing “personal reasons” as he claimed he was not in the right mindset to lead the team.

The decision made by the Wallabies legend has been widely praised as the importance of mental health is paramount.

Played for Hooper

Slipper believes the 41-26 win shows how much Hooper means to the team, and he was delighted to honour his captain.

“I just said to the boys before we ran out, I would like us to put in a performance where we make our fans proud, make our teammates proud and, most of all, to make Hoops proud,” Slipper told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“So I was just really ecstatic we got the result but mainly because of Hoops, and what he has done for this team and what he means to us as blokes.”

Coach Dave Rennie commended his team’s second half showing before underlining how much respect the squad has for Hooper.

“It was a hell of a second half. Losing Dave Porecki and losing Hoops earlier in the week, it shows the character of the group,” Rennie said.

“I guess that highlights the respect we have for Hoops as well. We talked a lot about him over the last 24 hours. How do you honour a man who has emptied the tank every Test for the last decade? And they responded with a performance like that.”

Putting the team first

Slipper revealed he was “gutted” for Hooper and believes he was still thinking about the team in making that decision.

“My immediate reaction was just pure sadness for the bloke,” Slipper said.

“For someone who has been the face of the Wallabies for the last ten years, and plays the way he does, 80 minutes, body on the line, week-in, week-out, and has this real strong mental toughness, for him to put his hand up and say he wasn’t right, I was just gutted for him. My story, it took me right back there to be honest. Just seeing how vulnerable he was.

“But at the end of the day, he put the team first once again,” Slipper said. “To be honest, I didn’t do what he did. He stood up and reached out. I have so much respect for the bloke. We just him to get right, get him home. If anyone deserves a break, it’s that bloke.”

Argentina coach Michael Cheika wished the best for Hooper and showed concern over his well-being.

“He is a very good friend of mine and I just hope he is ok,” Cheika said. “I just want him to be the best he can be. He is a great man and I am sure he will bounce back really well.”

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