Michael Hooper still hopes to lead the Wallabies after deciding to step down as Waratahs captain ahead of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Hooper has decided to hand the Waratahs captaincy to 30-year-old Test centurion Rob Simmons, a surprise switch revealed before their final pre-season match against the Reds on Friday.
The 28-year-old flank has captained the Waratahs since 2016 but after a difficult 2019 season, in which the New South Wales side finished 12th and Wallabies knocked out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Hooper decided that a change was necessary.
‘It’s a role that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but I feel that the time is right for someone like Rob to lead this group in the season ahead,’ Hooper said.
‘It would be remiss of me to say it doesn’t have a taxing effect. There is much more than just running out on the park and leading the team out on the weekend.
‘There is performances of teams that weigh into it, there’s you guys [the media] who are all my friends but having to speak every week is tough and tiring sometimes, to try and get the message right and represent the team as best as possible.
‘Also a big part of it is I have another four years here, and I want to make those four years really special and take my personal game and my leadership to another level. Actually stepping back is going to allow me to do that.’
#SuperRugby | Our captain and vice captain are locked in for 2020!
— NSW Waratahs (@NSWWaratahs) January 22, 2020
Hooper’s decision coincides with the winds of change blowing through Australian rugby at both provincial and international level.
The Waratahs will be coached by Rob Penney this year, while the Wallabies will also have a new head coach in Dave Rennie replacing Michael Cheika.
‘I still do think I have a lot of growing in myself, in my game play and my captaincy,’ Hooper added. ‘There are conversations Dave and myself will be having, I am sure in the future. But it is a bit of time off, so I am dealing with the here and now.’
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