Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper has arrived home confident of being cleared of foul play and allowed to tackle the All Blacks in next week’s Rugby Championship decider in Sydney.
Hooper will appear at a SANZAR judicial hearing on Wednesday night after being cited for allegedly punching Argentine five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez in an off-the-ball incident during Saturday’s 34-9 win over the Pumas in Mendoza.
The Wallabies vice-captain faces allegations of punching or striking an opponent with the fist or arm, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee, but believes he will beat the charge.
Convinced he is innocent, Hooper and his legal team will argue he merely swatted Sanchez away in retaliation to the Puma’s jumper-tugging in a crude bid to prevent the Australian from supporting teammate Dean Mumm.
But while Mumm didn’t need Hooper anyway as he charged through several defenders to score, the back-rower with an impeccable disciplinary record is getting plenty of support from Wallabies teammates ahead of his date with destiny on Wednesday.
“I think he’s very confident. As far as I’m concerned, there was no intention to punch him in the face. He was run off the ball,” said fellow Wallabies vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper.
“His hand was open.
“That will be dealt with tomorrow night and I’m confident – and likewise the team is confident – that he can get off.”
Any suspension would rule Hooper out of Saturday week’s Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup clash with the top-ranked All Blacks and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was careful not to prejudice the 42-Test star’s hearing.
“I don’t want to say too much before it happens because I don’t want anyone to get any ideas about anything,” Cheika said.
“But if we didn’t believe that he was not guilty then we wouldn’t have proceeded to the hearing.
“So I think that shows our intent and we’ll do our best to go there and show that Michael didn’t do anything wrong.”