Hooper steps up for Australia - despite dad's roots


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The Independent Online

Michael Hooper, the Australian flanker who must this weekend step into the void left by David Pocock, has no qualms about facing up to Chris Robshaw. Not after squaring up to the great Richie McCaw.

Yet this is not an example of Antipodean arrogance but the assured, and respectful, words of a young man who only last month came out of his tussle with the world's greatest forward having secured his side a 18-18 draw against the All Blacks.

At Twickenham, Hooper will not only have the challenge of facing Robshaw but of filling in for the injured Australia captain and their star player, Pocock. So what does he make of such responsibility?

"When you step into it you have to try to bring your best, and in saying that it is an exciting experience," said the 21-year-old openside. "Robshaw was great in the South African series [this summer]. It is going to be a good battle. You want to play the best guys in the world and he is obviously doing really well for England so it is going to be exciting.

"I have been lucky enough now to play against Richie McCaw, so it doesn't make these things as hard when you have had previous experiences of other people."

Such confidence is remarkably refreshing given that Hooper's most recent outing was last week's 33-6 defeat by France. That result, as well as the Wallabies' last against England, the 35-18 loss in 2010, is certain to provide motivation enough for Robbie Deans's side, but the match has an extra edge for Hooper.

"My dad is English, from Maidstone," he said. "He spent most of his life out here, his whole family is over here. Mum is Australian so he is an Australian citizen now so he'll be waving the Australia flag.

"He moved out to Sydney when he was about 24 and loved it. The sun and the beach, I think he got a bit accustomed to it so he ended up staying.

"If there is one game I wanted to start it would have been this one. It's got extra importance for me and having my family in the crowd will be really cool. My dad cheers for the Wallabies, I don't think he'd be allowed in the house if he didn't. My dad's brother is still English so I'm not sure what flag they'll be waving on Saturday. I didn't consider trying to play for England. I heard that I could but I always wanted to play for Australia, or have the potential to play for Australia, and I love Australia."