Hooper praises "pest" Robshaw

Date published: November 28 2014

Australia captain Michael Hooper has labelled his English counterpart Chris Robshaw an “absolute pest” ahead of Saturday’s fixture.

Australia captain Michael Hooper has labelled his English counterpart Chris Robshaw an “absolute pest” ahead of their Twickenham clash on Saturday.

The two loose forwards will be involved in a contest to boss the breakdown when the sides meet, less than a year out from the teams’ 2015 World Cup pool clash at the London ground.

Yet even though Robshaw has established himself as England coach Stuart Lancaster’s undoubted first-choice captain, there are those who continue to question whether his leadership skills offset the fact he is not a turnover specialist in the mould of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.

Lancaster has faced repeated demands to abandon England’s policy of selecting overseas-based players in “exceptional circumstances” only and revive the Test career of impressive flanker Steffon Armitage, the reigning European player of the year, who has been starring for French and European champions Toulon.

But Hooper, one of the best scavenging opensides in the modern game, said Robshaw’s qualities as a flanker should not be discounted.

“Robshaw is an absolute pest,” Hooper said Thursday.

“Last year he had a really good performance against us around the ruck, disrupting our ball and made it a really tough night for us around the breakdown,” explained Hooper, recalling England’s 20-13 win over the Wallabies at Twickenham in November 2013.

“I think they have got a good back row and a big, physical forward pack who like to dominate scrums and line-outs.

“Robshaw’s work ethic is great: that’s probably the main attribute of a seven, he’s got to work and get through a heap of stuff.

“He does that: he’s their leader and is a big part of the team regardless.

“I don’t think there’s any traditional position any more… If a guy is a good enough player then get him in there is what I say.

The 23-year-old added: “Every seven is different and that’s what I think is great about rugby — I’m different from Robshaw and we’re different from South African and Kiwi sevens.

“There’s no one type of player any more in modern rugby, that’s what’s good about the game and it will be good to have that challenge this weekend against him.”

“One of the great aspects of number seven is that it’s open to interpretation,” Hooper said.

“You can have an on-baller like (Australia’s David) Pocock or (Wales’s) Sam Warburton or you can have a wider player. Within the shape we play our back row actually splits the work quite a lot.

“We find ourselves out in the wide channels quite a bit which can be a bit different from other teams.

“My role can depend on the game: if it’s really defensive then you have opportunity to go at the breakdown.

“But sometimes your team can be attacking and have 60 percent of the ball and you can be out in the wide channels.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a single role in the game. I just play it as I see it and I think Cheiks (Michael Cheika, the Australia coach) backs me to do that.”