Michael Hooper has defended Wallabies teammate Nic White after England coach Eddie Jones called him a “niggler” ahead of the decisive Test between the two sides on Saturday.
Speaking in the leadup to the crunch clash in Sydney, White accused the visitors of employing deliberate tactics to “niggle” and unsettle the hosts.
In response, an amused Jones branded the Australia scrumhalf’s comments hypocritical, adding: “I hardly think he’s entitled to make that comment, he’s the biggest niggler of all time.
“That makes me laugh. The boy from Queanbeyan who niggles everyone, complaining about niggle – that’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.”
To which Wallabies skipper Hooper jumped in and went to bat for the 49-Test-cap halfback: “Whitey is just obsessed with rugby.
“The guy is an absolute footy nerd. He just wants to play. He’s as competitive as you’ll see and he’ll be doing his usual thing.”
Meanwhile, England forwards coach Richard Cockerill denied that the tourists were being underhanded, rather pointing out it was the Wallabies who had lock Darcy Swain sent off for a head butt in the first Test.
“I keep hearing about the niggle that England have brought, I don’t know how Aussie rugby is but I don’t see that as particular niggle, it’s been pretty tame so far,” Cockerill said.
“I expect them to come hard physically at us as they lost the physical battle early in the game last week so they’ll want to put that right.
“They’ve talked themselves up so and are going to come with more physicality so we’ve got the match that and more.
“We’re going to bring more physicality than last week because we know if we do that, it puts us in the best place to win the game.”