‘Grieving period’: Hooper opens up on disappointment of missing World Cup

‘Grieving period’: Hooper opens up on disappointment of missing World Cup

Axed Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper says he went through a “grieving period” after being left out of the Rugby World Cup squad, but is continuing to train in case he is called up by Eddie Jones due to an injury.

Hooper also said he respected Jones for making “big calls” around backing youth in the Wallabies squad over experienced players and confirmed this masthead’s report he is close to signing a new contract to play sevens for Australia next year.

Hooper spoke for the first time about his shock omission after being announced as a new member of the Stan Sport commentary team for the Rugby World Cup. The 125-Test flanker will provide expert comments as a panel member back in the Sydney studio.

Hooper was controversially left out of Jones’ 33-man squad just six weeks after being appointed co-captain with James Slipper. Hooper started at No.7 for the Wallabies against the Springboks but picked up a calf injury ahead of the Argentina clash in Sydney a week later, and after “re-tweaking” the calf ahead of the Bledisloe Cup games, played no further part in the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship campaign.

Jones explained Hooper’s omission as being injury-related, but has since spoken about deliberately discarding senior Wallabies with a lack of success in favour of selecting an inexperienced World Cup squad with no scars from the past.

Asked about how he felt to be left out, Hooper said: “Of course I was disappointed.”

“This is my final year of my contract, really had been a bit of a pinnacle of where my career would be, and finishing up on that note. But hey, like, I’ve been on the right side of the stick a lot with selection and being involved in teams, and it wasn’t to be this time,” Hooper said on WSFM on Tuesday.

“I’ve had the whole grieving period, you know, and coming out the other side, and now it’s turning into excitement to watch it all kick off and trying to stay fit secretly. So, you know, if there’s a chance, I might be there.”

Hooper told Wide World of Sports there was “ambiguity” around his injury and when he would be fit to take the field, after re-injuring his calf.

“It wasn’t as clean, probably, as some injuries are. Usually with an injury, you can push through the pain a bit. What I learned with this is not a type of push-through-pain situation,” he said.

“So in terms of timing, in terms of selection, all those things – my only regret will be not being ready if I’m called upon. So, I’m pretty much there now.”

Asked about Jones’ confusing selection tactics of using experienced Wallabies early on, but then overlooking many for the Rugby World Cup squad, Hooper told WWOS: “Yeah, it’s an interesting one, right? Like, you won’t know what it’s like until after the fact. Hindsight’s beautiful in that sense.

“Right now there has been significant changes, but he’s got a plan and he’s executing that plan. I respect that he’s going after those decisions and making some big calls, you know, that’s his job in there as coach. He’s putting together a team to do what he wants to do and wants to see that happen. So that’s got to be supported by all Wallabies.”

Hooper confirmed this masthead’s report he is also set to sign a new contract with Rugby Australia to play for the Australian sevens team, and chase selection for the Olympic Games next year.

“The idea of an Olympics is just really a new challenge and exciting challenge,” he said.

“So that certainly turned up the volume a bit. And aside from this calf, this season, I felt really fit, really healthy through my Waratahs season this year. [My] body felt really good.

“So the nervousness around sevens is usually, ‘What type of load does that take?’ But I think that from my understanding, the physical load in terms of contact is going to go down. Certainly the running and the repeat speed stuff will increase, and I’m OK with that. I don’t mind that sort of stuff.”

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