Wallabies: Michael Hooper in contention for opening Autumn Nations Series clash against Scotland

Colin Newboult
Wallabies veteran Michael Hooper looks on during training

Australia captain James Slipper believes former skipper Michael Hooper is in line to face Scotland in their Autumn Nations Series opener.

The flanker made a relatively swift return to the Wallabies squad for their end-of-year Tests after missing the Rugby Championship to aid his mental health.

Hooper has been an ever-present for the national team after making his debut in 2012 and Slipper expects the 30-year-old to be ready when they take on Scotland next weekend.

Getting stuck in

“He is moving in the right direction. He wouldn’t put himself up for selection if he didn’t feel like he was ready to contribute and perform,” he said.

“Speaking to Hoops, he’s happy. He is obviously still working on things, behind closed doors and that’s natural and a lot of us are doing that as well.

“He will be picked on merit. Knowing Hoops well, he wants to fight for his position. He doesn’t want to roll up and just be picked in the team, and on the training paddock, you have already seen it today, he will get stuck in.

“He is just a competitor naturally, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he is in and around that team in the first game.”

Australia’s back-row has performed well in Hooper’s absence, with Pete Samu in particular stepping into the openside slot superbly.

His return to the XV is therefore not guaranteed but the loosehead prop insists that it is just great to see the flanker back in the squad.

“He has definitely been missed, he is one of our most experienced players,” Slipper said.

“The most capped Wallaby captain. So that sort of leadership and experience, being taken out of the team throughout the year, it was tough and it was a bit of a shock to most of the players. That’s what makes it so great to see him back.”

Tough schedule

The Wallabies have a gruelling five-Test tour, where they will look to improve following a frustrating Rugby Championship campaign.

Dave Rennie’s men take on Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales over the next month and Slipper has high expectations.

“We want to go over with the expectation to win, as well. We are not going over there to come second,” he said.

“It is all about going out there and doing it. It is no use to me standing here talking about what I want to do. It is about going over there and doing it.

“You kind of want that momentum heading into a World Cup, and for us it is a great opportunity for us to start that momentum now.”

Australia have suffered a blow before the tour has really started, however, with lock Matt Philip rupturing his ACL.

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