Hooper to leave Wallabies tour, take break after admitting ‘mindset’ struggle”

“But clearly he has been struggling a bit and masking that pretty well. It came to a head last night and he was brave enough to call (team doctor) Sharron (Flahive) and have a chat with her and then (manager) Chris Webb and myself, to get an understanding of where he is at.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is tackled by Owen Farrell.Credit:Getty

“The concern is all around his welfare and it was an easy decision to let him go home and he’ll have plenty of support around him.

“He has been able to suppress things over the last couple of weeks, and we certainly weren’t aware of anything.

“He is such a professional, he was able to get on and do the job. He addressed the team today, which took an enormous amount of courage, and let them know he’s not okay, and he thought it was best for himself and best for the team that he heads home.”

Fraser McReight is on standby to play.

Fraser McReight is on standby to play.Credit:Getty

Hooper is not the first high-profile athlete to step away from their sport to prioritize mental well-being. Buddy Franklin missed the latter stages of the 2015 AFL season to focus on his mental health and Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell took two months off in 2019, to help restore balance. Maxwell said being on tour for five years had “ruined him”.

Hooper is one of Australia’s most durable players and since debuting in 2012 has played in 118 of Australia’s 126 Tests, with 115 starts. He also became a father earlier this year.

“It’s not uncommon in life is it? It’s a cross-section of society and often men will say bugger all and suffer in silence,” Rennie said.

“So as I said before, it took a lot of courage to address the group. He has a huge amount of respect from everyone and we want to get him home and get him as much support as we can.”

McReight is a very competent replacement, given his excellent form for Queensland and Australia this year.

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The value of the Australia A program will shine through again when McReight pulls on the No.7. He was controversially omitted from the Wallabies’ squad for the England series in July, and instead sent to play in the Pacific Nations Cup. The 23-year-old, who debuted in 2020 but has only won two caps, played in every game and re-joined the Wallabies squad for the Argentina trip with plenty of match fitness.

Slipper, meanwhile, has stressed the importance of starting strongly against Argentina, to dampen down the passion of the Pumas players and their fans at a sold-out Estadio Malvinas Argentinas. The venue, built for the 1978 FIFA World Cup, can hold 42,000 people.

The problem for the Wallabies is their starts were poor against England, and they failed to score a point in the opening 20 minutes of all three Tests. Two tries were bombed in the opening 10 minutes in the third Test.

‘It is an important part of the game, the start, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter who you are playing, playing catch up rugby against anyone will get you away from how you want to play the game,” Slipper said.

“For us, it is just about nailing our detail and it is one thing to create opportunities and another to take them. To be honest, this week we have spoken a lot about our detail and our execution. If there is one place you want to start well it’s here, the Argentina team and the fans are very passionate and you can’t let that build.”

Watch every match of The Rugby Championship on the Home of Rugby, City Sports. Kick off this weekend with South Africa v All Blacks (Sunday 12.30am AEST) and Argentina v Wallabies (Sunday 4.45am AEST). All matches streaming ad-free, live and on demand on Stan Sport.

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