Michael Hooper: Australia captain set to make first Waratahs appearance since 2020

Colin Newboult

Australia captain Michael Hooper is set to make his return to Super Rugby after being named on the Waratahs bench for their clash with Fijian Drua on Friday.

The 30-year-old missed the entire 2021 campaign after playing for Toyota Verblitz in Japan and he has yet to take to the field in 2022.

That is in part because of the foot injury sustained playing for Australia against England last November but also due to his contractual leave, which means he misses a third of the current campaign.

It is to aid Hooper’s preparations ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with the 118-times capped Wallabies skipper absolutely vital to their chances.

A massive boost

“Having Hoops back in the team is a massive boost for us,” Waratahs head coach Darren Coleman said.

“Notwithstanding his playing ability and what he’ll add to the scoreboard but the professionalism and the way he carries himself has a real positive effect on the team.

“To have one of the best players in the world return is really exciting not just for us but for our fans and we can’t wait to see him on the field this weekend wearing the sky-blue.”

The openside is named among the replacements alongside experienced Welshman Jamie Roberts, who is back on the bench after starting the previous weekend.

Hugh Sinclair, Charlie Gamble and the impressive Will Harris make up the ‘Tahs back-row for the clash against the Pacific Islanders, with Jed Holloway captaining the team from lock.

Angus Bell returns at prop after pulling out of the Reds clash and he is partnered by Dave Porecki and Harry Johnson-Holmes in the front-row.

Behind the scrum, Lalakai Foketi is set to play his 50th Super Rugby game while Alex Newsome is shifted to full-back in the absence of Will Harrison.

Waratahs: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Dylan Pietsch, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jack Grant, 8 Will Harris, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Geoffrey Cridge, 4 Jed Holloway (c), 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Te Tera Faulkner, 18 Archer Holz, 19 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Teddy Wilson, 22 Jamie Roberts, 23 Triston Reilly

Date: Friday, April 1
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 BST, 08:45 GMT)
Referee: Reuben Keane (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Brett Cronon (Australia)

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