Michael Hooper: Wallabies captain encouraged by progress of Australian Super Rugby teams

Colin Newboult

Talismanic Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has been pleased with the efforts of the Australian teams so far in the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific.

After the domination the New Zealand sides have had over recent years, many feared a repeat in 2022 once the trans-Tasman contests got underway.

However, it has been anything but plain sailing for the Kiwi outfits, with the Highlanders and Hurricanes both in the bottom half of the table.

The Brumbies have particularly impressed, securing 10 victories in 11 and recording three successive wins over the Landers, Canes and Chiefs, but the Waratahs and Reds are also in good positions.

Hooper, who has played a key role in the Tahs’ resurgence, believes that Australian rugby now looks in a much better position as they build towards the 2023 World Cup.

A different narrative

“Absolutely yeah (it’s encouraging), it’s just a bit of a different narrative for us at the moment,” he told reporters.

“It’s been great to see individuals playing really well and then teams finding some form and showing their identity on the field.

“I’ve been really impressed with the Brumbies, obviously they’re the stand out with what they’ve been doing, so they’re sort of leading the way at the moment and we’re (Waratahs) growing from strength to strength.

“We’ve got some really good challenges coming up in the next couple of weeks; two home games, one away, and all against tough opposition. We’re in a really neat place at the moment.”

There are also plenty of talented young individuals currently coming through the system. It has benefited Australia in the short term, as evidenced by the results in Super Rugby Pacific this season, but will equally help the national team over the next decade.

Hooper has been impressed with their attitude and application, despite the players’ inexperience.

“We’re probably less experienced in terms of caps and things than we have been in Super, but it certainly doesn’t show in terms of how we’re playing and the hunger that guys are showing,” he said.

“To get some really consistent performances is really nice and that’s a nice narrative to be a part of, just seeing other teams win and a general feel that it’s great to see those teams win.

“I’ve definitely been in camps where you death ride teams a bit, and particularly Aussie counterparts, not wanting to see them do well, but I think that’s definitely changed for me, so really pleased for some of the teams doing really well at the moment.

“There’s certainly a hunger about what the teams are wanting to do and desperation in terms of how they’re playing. There’s a hunger to change that story, be a part of a new sort of feel and that’s a real big motivating factor for a lot of those players, to change and shift that narrative. That’s been noticed.”

The true progress of Australian rugby will come when they face England in a three-Test series in July, a team that will be desperate to respond after their disappointing Six Nations campaign.

Eddie Jones’ men claimed a 3-0 series victory back in 2016 when they last went head-to-head in Australia and Hooper expects another tough challenge.

“Certainly (there’s hunger). It’s a great series, it doesn’t feel like that long ago, playing in 2016 when they came out here last time, but a lot has happened since then,” he said.

“England are very good at the moment, they’re a very good team and they have been for a long time, so winning the series will be important, but against these guys who are really quality at the moment, it can set up your year and the months into the World Cup.

“We don’t know where we stand. They got the better of us last year in Twickenham, but we get to play them at three home grounds, places that we’ve had great success before.”

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