Michael Hooper downplays personal milestone

Planet Rugby

Michael Hooper will make history when he leads out the Wallabies against South Africa at Suncorp Stadium, becoming Australia’s most capped captain.

Hooper will go past the record set by legendary scrum-half George Gregan as he plays his 60th game as skipper.

Full of praise for Gregan

Ever the team player, the 29-year-old wasn’t buying into the significance, taking the chance to praise Gregan and his legacy.

“I don’t really know at this stage,” Hooper told Rugby Australia’s official website on Friday. “It’s a weird one breaking someone else’s record, it’s not something you set out to do. “Like I said last week, George was one of my favourite players, someone who I looked up to. The way he competed and just really went for it every play and strove to be better every week.

“I wish I got the chance to play with him hey? I just missed out by a few years. You hang around long enough these things happen so I guess I have been.”

The key to this has been Hooper’s remarkable longevity, which has him already in the top five for all-time caps in Wallaby history.

This is reflective when you look at a breakdown of his Tests by year, with 2020 his lowest at six, which can be put down to the limited international calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst Hooper has had injuries throughout his career, with a head injury nearly keeping him out of last week’s thrilling win over South Africa, he praised the work and knowledge of the Wallabies staff in ensuring he can maximise his time in gold.

“I’ve had my injuries for sure. I don’t think it’s been a luck thing, I was up in the air about playing last week because the stitches hurt and there’s still that concern hence why I wore headgear to give myself the best opportunity to stay on the park,” he revealed.

“Every player has certain things they do to stay on the park, no one is playing at 100%. There’s a lot of training and that’s only highlighted every year you play and go out on Monday or Tuesday and things are sore.

“You have to develop and I was given that advice early in my career from coaches and players that you have to find what works for you to make sure you get out on the park on Saturday.

“It takes a heap of refinement and learning things along with great staff who have been good in managing myself and other players. I’ve been really appreciative of that, I can’t do every minute of everything anymore so being smart around training is crucial.”

Hooper’s standing within the greats of Australian rugby is one that will always be questioned and debated, with one thing, unfortunately, separating him from the rest: team success.

A dream run in 2015 nearly delivered the World Cup and on occasions, the hunt to reclaim the Bledisloe Cup have been ever so close to ending.

This caused Wallabies coach Dave Rennie to suggest the lack of success has unfairly diminished his standing, suggesting he would be revered more playing in a different era.

However, Hooper wouldn’t happen any other way, even if his side may rile him up ahead of the record.

“They’ve given me a bit of s***, as any good team does,” he said with a laugh.

“That’s not even something to consider (playing in a different era), I’m here and now and that’s all you can ever comment on…I’m been more in lucky to be around some of the teams and players that I’ve been a part of.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way. In my experience, I’ve loved it.”


Can we expect more high-scoring games this season?

An excerpt from Planet Rugby's interview with Ben Kay, with a discussion over the new rules changes in rugby union and if they will mean more entertaining matches.