Wallabies squad sparks controversy after Quade Cooper and Michael Hooper axed

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones' controversial omissions have left Australian rugby fans in a frenzy.

Pictured left to right, Wallabies veterans Quade Cooper and Michael Hooper.
Veterans Quade Cooper and Michael Hooper were shock omissions from the Wallabies World Cup squad announced on Thursday. Pic: Getty

Eddie Jones has been labelled either a mad man or a genius by rugby fans after axing veteran Australia stars Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper in a shock Wallabies World Cup squad announcement on Thursday. The Wallabies coach also appointed a new skipper to lead the side in this year's tournament in France, with European-based lock Will Skelton handed the reins despite having little captaincy experience.

The Wallabies coach sprang a number of shocks in his 33-man squad, which placed a significant emphasis on youth and developing for the future. Co-captain James slipper was included in the squad but dumped from his leadership role as Jones shocked the rugby world by naming Skelton as his new captain. Halfback Tate McDermott will be Skelton's deputy.

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Hooper's omission had been widely forecast before Thursday's announcement after the flanker lost his race against time with a calf injury. Many rugby fans, including Wallabies legend Tim Horan, felt Hooper's experience could have been vital to the Wallabies squad, even if the record-holding Wallabies captain wasn't available until later in the tournament.

Perhaps no call was more shocking than Cooper's omission, with emerging star Carter Gordon and utility back Ben Donaldson chosen instead of the veteran playmaker. Jones said informing Hooper and Cooper of their axing had been tough but backed those selected.

"They're really difficult decisions, they're both very good players, but ... young players are the players that are going to take Australian rugby forward," he said. "This squad is good enough to win this World Cup and possibly go on to win the next World Cup. That's the advantage of picking young guys.

Seen here, Quade Cooper and Michael Hooper in action for the Wallabies against Fiji.
Quade Cooper and Michael Hooper are seen here in action for the Wallabies against Fiji. Pic: Getty

"They all deserve their opportunities. It's not as if we're handing them jerseys on a platter but they'll bring energy and a lot of ambition and enthusiasm."

The Wallabies' squad featured several bolters including 18-year-old NSW speedster Max Jorgensen and 23-year-old prop Blake Schoupp, while uncapped Western Force No.9 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa has been named to back up Tate McDermott and Nic White. Gun centre Len Ikitau hasn't been named as he battles a shoulder problem, joining Allan Alaalatoa (achilles) on the sidelines. Injured prop Taniela Tupou (rib) and centre Samu Kerevi (hand) were included.

Fans shocked by Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper axings

All Blacks legend Sonny Bill Williams was among the raft of rugby fans shocked by Jones' squad announcement and particularly, the axing of Hooper and Cooper. "I’m all for focussing on the future... But World Cups are about the now!" he tweeted. "France is 4 weeks away... now is a time for experience and proven world class - and two of them are staying at home. As a rugby fan I know I’m not alone in saying these two special players will be missed at the Rugby World Cup."

Will Skelton to lead a new-look Wallabies side

New Wallabies skipper Skelton has won a number of titles with English club Saracens and his current French side La Rochelle but admits he can barely remember the last time he captained a side. The towering lock said he was ready to rise to the challenge afforded to him by the wily mentor, Jones.

The Wallabies have gathered in Darwin for a four-day camp, readying themselves for their final tune-up match against France on August 28. Their opening World Cup match is against Georgia on September 10.


Forwards: Angus Bell, Pone Fa'amausili, Zane Nonggorr, Blake Schoupp, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Matt Faessler, David Porecki, Jordan Uelese, Richie Arnold, Nick Frost, Matt Philip, Will Skelton (capt), Langi Gleeson, Tom Hooper, Rob Leota, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini.

Backs: Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Tate McDermott, Nic White, Carter Gordon, Lalakai Foketi, Samu Kerevi, Izaia Perese, Jordan Petaia, Max Jorgensen, Andrew Kellaway, Marika Koroibete, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Suliasi Vunivalu, Ben Donaldson, Josh Kemeny.

with AAP

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