Michael Hooper leaves Rugby Championship, Australian vs Argentina, Michael Cheika, team news

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has withdrawn from Sunday’s (AEST) Rugby Championship opener against Argentina due to “mindset” issues.

The 121-Test veteran pulled out of the Test after the team was announced on Friday morning, before a statement from Rugby Australia confirmed his withdrawal on Saturday morning.

“While this decision did not come easily, I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time,” Hooper said in a statement.

“My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don’t feel I am able to fulfill my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset.”

Fraser McReight, who has long been viewed as Hooper’s heir apparent, has been called up from outside the matchday 23 and will wear the No.7 jersey.

James Slipper, who captained the side in Hooper’s absence (injury) last November against Wales, will once again lead the Wallabies.

Michael Hooper has withdrawn from the Wallabies' camp because of a
Michael Hooper has withdrawn from the Wallabies’ camp because of a “mindset” issue. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will address the media on Saturday morning, but in a statement he said Australia’s most capped captain had shown “courage” in stepping aside.

“Michael’s one of the most professional and impressive men I’ve coached. I know this has been a difficult decision for him,” he said.

“He’s shown true courage by acknowledging where he is at and acting on it.

“We will support him in any way we can and I know the team will be focused on getting the job done tomorrow.”

Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos added: “Michael is an incredible leader, it takes a brave man to identify where he’s at and come forward while having the best interests of the team at heart.

“His wellbeing is and remains the highest priority right now where Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby community will do everything to support him and his family.”

Hooper made his debut in 2012 and first captained the Wallabies in 2014, after Stephen Moore suffered a season-ending injury against France.

Three successive coaches have made Hooper captain, with Ewen McKenzie turning to the northern beaches flanker in 2014. Michael Cheika then entrusted Hooper with the captaincy as Stephen Moore came to the end of his career in 2017.

Rennie opted to keep Hooper as captain when he took over in 2020.

Hooper has since gone on to break George Gregan’s record as the Wallabies’ most-capped captain.

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