What's Michael Hooper doing in a television studio in Sydney instead of being in the thick of the action for a poor Wallabies side craving direction, leadership and drive? That's the question angry and disillusioned Australian rugby fans are asking today after a demoralising 22-15 loss to Fiji in the second pool game of a World Cup quickly headed for disaster.
The Wallabies must now beat undefeated Wales next Monday morning (AEST) or bow out before the quarter-finals for the first time in World Cup history. Former captain Hooper, who played 125 Tests for his country, was controversially overlooked by coach Eddie Jones despite overcoming a niggling calf injury, with the coach opting to fast-track a new generation of players.
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But with injuries striking senior players – combined with Australia's lack of dominance at the breakdown – it seems even more inconceivable one of the world's top players is not in France. "I think we (Australia) got found out from a leadership point of view when (captain Will) Skelton went down," former All Black Sonny Bill Williams said on Stan Sport. "Hoops has been a gentleman back there (in the studio). We missed him tonight. Plain and simple."
And the fans agree. One posted: "Interesting watching the Stan Sport coverage and there is Michael Hooper speaking of his one-time side getting dominated at the breakdown. Eddie made his bed!"
Another wrote: "Three different captains in three games. Seriously you blokes are taking the piss. The game was leaderless, had no structure and discipline was abysmal. You should all be embarrassed."
Michael Hooper critical of Eddie Jones after Wallabies loss
Hooper was far too modest to agree with SBW and too much of a proud Australian to bask in any sort of any schadenfreude – at least on camera - but he did rip in over Jones' use of his bench. The former captain felt fresh legs were needed earlier as the Wallabies attempted to claw their way back into the contest.
"I am a huge fan of getting your reserves on," Hooper said. "Why would you leave reserves on the bench until under 10 minutes? Get them out on the field to rip into it."
Hooper was also perplexed over the move to hook fly-half Carter Gordon early in the second half. "I think what was happening was the Fijians were getting such good go forward so we take Carter off and move 'Donno' (fullback Ben Donaldson) into the front line," Hooper said.
"Now what are the Fijians going to do? They're going to keep running down that channel. It's a really interesting (change) to do at 48, 49 minutes. This game's asked a lot more questions than answers."
— Clarke (@Clarke_NZL) September 17, 2023
Feels like Michael Hooper could have been helpful with this breakdown
— Farthing (@friendtolepers) September 17, 2023
— Jeff Cheshire (@jeff_cheshire) September 17, 2023
Carter Gordon was petrified of the Fijians today, the world saw he was 💩 scared. However, he has a bright future in Wallaby Gold.
It was disgusting how Michael Hooper was treated, but that’s Eddie Jones for you.
— Luke Elvy (@Luke_Elvy) September 17, 2023
Michael Hooper might have just taken up cigar smoking !
— Brian Ashby (@BrianAshby2) September 17, 2023
Eddie Jones and Donald tRump have a lot in common and that is they both full of 💩
Not his fault tho. The ARU made the call to fire Dave Rennie & it really showed.
They missed Michael Hooper & Quade Cooper big time especially with Hooper in the ruck area.
— R.i.C.C.o.0.2.4 (@quetho_bro) September 17, 2023
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