Wallabies star Michael Hooper is excited about stepping into the unknown at the upcoming Rugby World Cup, but far too busy to reflect on his extraordinarily rapid rise through the ranks.
At the time of the last World Cup four years ago, Hooper was still at the Brumbies and yet to make his Test debut.
Now the 23-year-old NSW Waratahs flanker has accrued 46 Test caps, captained his country, played in a Super Rugby title-winning side and is one of the prime movers in a Wallabies squad focused on securing the nation’s third World Cup.
The speedy openside is joint vice-captain of the current squad and has won a stack of individual awards and accolades, but doesn’t spend time reflecting on everything he’s achieved since 2011.
“Four years ago is a long time, I’m just thinking about the here and now I guess,” Hooper told AAP from the Wallabies’ training camp in the United States.
“It will be nice to reflect and go back a bit, but (I’m) so enveloped and so engulfed in what is the job we’ve got coming up that it’s hard to think about anything else.”
“There’s always going to be time for reflection and when that comes, so be it, but right now it’s such an exciting time you’re not thinking about other things, you’re thinking about what’s ahead.”
For Hooper, the excitement comes from being a World Cup novice.
“I’m excited about the fact that I don’t know anything, that it’s going to be a new and fun experience,” Hooper said.
“I know that when we were there (in Britain) on the spring tour last year there was already some good hype about the World Cup there, so I know it can only really have improved in the last couple of weeks particularly.”
Another unknown for Hooper is the preferred backrow combination of coach Michael Cheika, who always holds his selection cards close to his chest.
“He keeps us guessing all the time, so I don’t know what his thinking is there,” Hooper said.
“You’d like to get the inner working of his mind sometimes, but you can’t and that’s what keeps you on your toes.”
It remains to be seen whether Cheika will again unleash from the start of games the potent fetching tandem of Hooper and David Pocock, as he did so successfully in the Rugby Championship decider against New Zealand.
“I think we complement each other on the field, I really enjoyed playing with him,” Hooper said.