Milestone man Hooper to lift Wallabies

His rise through the ranks of Australian rugby was so rapid it has caught many by surprise, and Michael Hooper can write himself into Wallabies folklore in the next fortnight.

With the irreplaceable David Pocock hobbled by a calf injury, Hooper’s importance to the Wallabies – especially at the breakdown – has risen immeasurably this week ahead of their World Cup semi-final with Argentina on Sunday (Monday AEDT).

Responsibility is something which sits well with Hooper, who at 23 will this weekend become the youngest – and fastest – Wallaby to reach 50 Test matches.

He’s already captained the Wallabies, led the Waratahs to their maiden Super Rugby title and entrenched himself as indispensable to the national team under coach Michael Cheika.

But replacing Pocock, who is being given until Saturday’s captain’s run to prove his fitness, is a job no one in world rugby would confidently take on.

Ben McCalman had a fine game in last weekend’s one-point victory over Scotland, but was unable to help Australia gain parity at the breakdown – where Pocock’s talents are feared throughout the world.

“He’s an outstanding player first of all, he has a great impact on a game, as the back row needs to do, and he’s done that throughout the competition,” Hooper said of Pocock.

“In saying that, (McCalman) had a great game on the weekend, 10 plus carries, a lot of good dominant tackles.

“So it’s not like for like with those guys or me or Dave.

“It’s about bringing your own spark and Ben definitely did that, and so did Seanny (McMahon) when I was out of the picture as well.

“Something Cheik wants you to do is focus on what you’re good at, what you can bring on the field, what your abilities are.

“I can’t play the same as Poey and Poey can’t play the same as me – either can Benny, and Fards (Scott Fardy) is going to trot around as he always does.

“We’re focusing on bringing our own light to the game and that’s what we tried to do on the weekend.”

One week after the Wallabies celebrated the milestone 100th Tests of captain Stephen Moore and centre Matt Giteau, they’ll get a chance to do it all over again with Hooper.

And much like the senior duo, Hooper is quick to deflect praise of his achievements – as is Giteau.

“Gits was quick to remind us that you can wrap them up quick these days,” he laughed.

“It’s been a fantastic ride so far and you want to keep it going, you want to stay in the jersey, contributing as best as possible. “

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