New NSW Waratahs captain Michael Hooper has described the leadership transfer from Dave Dennis to himself as a partnership not a handover of power.
New coach Daryl Gibson stamped an early mark on the side opting for Hooper as his on-field leader.
Dennis, who was skipper in the three previous seasons under former coach Michael Cheika, has been named club captain.
Hooper, who has also captained Australia, led the Waratahs to victory in the 2014 Super Rugby final after Dennis suffered a season-ending injury.
“Denno and myself, the relationship has always been fantastic, it’s more a partnership than a handover,” Hooper said on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a learning process together. We’ve had three good years at it and he put this club in a amazing position with a Super title.
“It’s a collective effort and want the young guys to step up and put their hand up as well.”
Hooper will lead a less experienced 2016 team after the Waratahs lost several internationals to overseas clubs, among them prop Sekope Kepu and utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper.
“This is an opportunity for Michael to establish himself as leader of a new group with a view to the long-term future,” Gibson said.
“We are extremely fortunate to have an experienced senior group behind them too.”
One old face Hooper was delighted to see back at the Tahs was back row colleague Wycliff Palu, who re-signed for 2016 after injury prevented him from fulfilling the first year of a contract in Japan.
“I didn’t expect to see the old bull back, but he’s a fantastic stalwart of this club,” Hooper said of Palu.
“To have him in any capacity in this team is fantastic.
“He’s great for all the players here and to see him strapping up the knees, ankles, shoulders every joint at the moment, is pretty funny.”
Hooper 24, has accumulated plenty of captaincy experience over several levels.
He captained his school and the Australian under-20 side before becoming one of the youngest players to lead the Wallabies at the age of 22 in 2014.
The dynamic openside flanker clearly commands the respect of his colleagues, having won the Tahs players’ player award in each of his three season with the club.
Renowned for his durability despite playing in a high traffic big collision position, Hooper has lasted the full 80 minutes in all but two of his 50 matches for the franchise.
And he has no concerns following Australia’s lengthy World Cup campaign.
“We (the Wallabies)had a great break, the longest breaks any of us have had ever, I think,” Hooper said.