Wallabies vice-captain Michael Hooper will miss Saturday’s World Cup clash with Wales after copping a one-week ban for foul play stemming from last weekend’s stunning victory over England.
Hooper pleaded guilty to the offence at a two-hour judiciary hearing in London on Tuesday, ruling him out of Australia’s final group match – which will decide who tops Pool A and earns the easier draw through the competition’s knock-out stages.
The 23-year-old was cited for a dangerous clear out of England fullback Mike Brown where the independent citing commissioner Steve Hinds found he had charged “into a ruck or maul without the use of arms or grasping the player” during Saturday’s 33-13 win at Twickenham.
The result should be considered a win for the Wallabies, as Hooper faced the potential of a tournament-ending suspension had his actions been deemed mid-range.
The base level for the charge normally carries a two-week ban, but Hooper was given a lighter sentence as the judiciary took into account his contrition, good on and off-field record and good behaviour during the hearing.
He will therefore be free to play in Australia’s quarter-final clash – which will be determined by their result against Wales.
Should they win, Australia will face the runner up from Pool B – likely to be Scotland or Japan.
A loss would set up a heavyweight showdown with the Pool B winner, which is expected to be South Africa.
Coach Michael Cheika will name his team on Thursday, but already has two ready-made replacements to call on.
In tyro Sean McMahon and the tough-as-teak Ben McCalman the Wallabies have two gifted back-rowers who have already impressed at this World Cup and are ideal stop-gap options.
Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore was confident there was enough depth in the squad to cover the short-term loss of Hooper and heaped praise on young McMahon.
“I think every chance (McMahon has) got to play for Australia so far he’s been outstanding,” he said. “He’s been man of the match a couple of times. He’s a quality player and he’s shown that for the Rebels.
“And at training he’s just been terrific, really ripping in every training. He’s ready to go if he’s needed.”