Reigning John Eales Medallist Michael Hooper says, at just 22, he’s ready to lead the Wallabies into next year’s Rugby World Cup.
NSW Waratahs star Michael Hooper is well aware he’s auditioning for the Wallabies captaincy – and he’s embracing the challenge.
Hooper and centre Adam Ashley-Cooper share the vice-captaincy at the Waratahs behind skipper Dave Dennis, but Australia’s reigning John Eales Medallist and Super Rugby player of the year is under strong consideration for the highest honour at Test level.
With incumbent captain Ben Mowen heading overseas, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is on the lookout for a new leader for next month’s three-Test series against France, with Hooper high on his shortlist of candidates.
Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore is understood to be the frontrunner, but Hooper also has the respect of his teammates and is believed to be ahead of former Wallabies captains James Horwill and Will Genia in the pecking order.
Although they are both likely to start in Australia’s opening international of 2014 in Brisbane on June 7, neither Genia nor Horwill have a mortgage on Wallabies positions under the second-year national coach.
Injury aside, though, the consistently outstanding Hooper is a lock to keep the No.7 jumper and knows he has three more Super Rugby games before the Test series begins to convince McKenzie he is the man to lead the Wallabies to next year’s World Cup.
“I have noticed and it is a massive privilege to be talked about in that light,” the classy flanker said ahead of the Waratahs’ clash with the Lions at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
“(The Test season) doesn’t seem that long away, a couple of weeks, but we still have such a busy schedule here it hasn’t really come into my thinking.
“We have a massive job here with the Tahs and, as a leadership group, we are trying to put our best foot forward for these three really important games.
“(Captaining) is something I enjoyed doing earlier in the year with the Tahs and I have really enjoyed being in the leadership group here. It is a cool thing, but we’ll see how we go.”
While 31-year-old Moore is a 91-Test veteran, Hooper is just 22 with 28 Wallabies caps to his credit since debuting in 2012.
But after playing all 15 Wallabies Tests last year, Hooper still believes he’d be ready to lead if given the nod.
“I have had quite a few years now in the fold and being around different styles of teams and coaches and things,” Hooper said.
“So I feel like I have seen quite a bit now.”
Waratahs and Wallabies teammate Kurtley Beale praised Hooper for possessing the same professionalism and leadership qualities as superstar fullback Israel Folau.
“The way that he’s been playing the last two years, he’s definitely brought that presence with him on and off the field,” Beale told AAP.
“He’s playing consistent rugby throughout the year and he’s always exciting to watch.
“When I’m playing alongside him, he always picks me up when he’s carrying the ball or putting big hits on.
“And the same goes with Izzy when he’s out there scoring tries.
“That is helping the Waratahs and, with the Wallabies going forward, that’s definitely a combination that will definitely help the boys achieve their goals.”
McKenzie will name a 32-man Wallabies squad on Thursday.