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Michael Hooper hopes to give Benji Marshall rude welcome

Irrepressible: Michael Hooper is aiming for an even better season with the Waratahs this year, starting with stifling Benji Marshall in the trial against the Blues on Friday.

Irrepressible: Michael Hooper is aiming for an even better season with the Waratahs this year, starting with stifling Benji Marshall in the trial against the Blues on Friday. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper has lauded Benji Marshall as a “quality” player who he expects will be “pretty dangerous one on one” on-field. But when – or if – he gets the chance in the Waratahs' trial against the Blues at Allianz Stadium at Moore Park on Friday night, the NSW specialist No. 7 will “try and get in his face”.

Like most players in the Waratahs, Hooper is excited about playing against the former Wests Tigers NRL star who last weekend played his first game of rugby since switching codes and signing with the Blues.

And Hooper hopes that in Friday’s trial, when both teams will no doubt change their line-ups throughout the game, he will be on the field at the same time as Marshall, who will play at five-eighth.

Learning the ropes: Benji Marshall takes on the Hurricanes in his debut for the Blues in a trial match on February 1.

Learning the ropes: Benji Marshall takes on the Hurricanes in his debut for the Blues in a trial match on February 1. Photo: Cameron Burnell

“It is a great challenge to come up against Benji,” Hooper said. “He is someone I am sure [who] will bring a lot to union from his code. It is great to play a player of his quality. It’s very exciting for me.

‘‘I am not too sure what ‘Cheik’ [coach Michael Cheika] is thinking with the teams yet. Hopefully, I get to have a go against him. Mate, he is a pretty dangerous person one on one.”

When asked if, as openside flanker, he saw his job as someone to stifle Marshall’s potency in the playmaker’s slot, Hooper said: “It’s tough. Some games you do have that opportunity and some you will barely see a [No.] 10.

‘‘Whether they are running or things like that … Off the scrum there is definitely a good chance to get at the ‘10’ and try and get in his face and pressure his kicks I think more than anything.”

Hooper’s excitement at the start of the season belies his heavy schedule, which last season resulted in him playing 15 Super Rugby games for the Waratahs and 15 Tests with the Wallabies, of which 14 were in the starting side.

Not only did Hooper play a lot, he played a lot exceptionally well as the list of awards that he won last year shows. These included the John Eales Medal, the Australian Super Rugby player of the year, the Castrol EDGE strongest performer of the series from last year’s Rugby Championship, and the Matt Burke Cup for Waratahs player of the year.

Asked how many minutes of rugby he played last year, Hooper just laughed and said: “I have no idea.”

But while he said he was “happy to get a break” after last season, he added that “at the end of the day, it’s great fun playing footy and in different teams, so I was enjoying myself”.

Hooper, in his second year at NSW, believes he has a lot more to improve on in his game, especially when the style of a match changes.

“It’s about improving consistency, so making sure the performance I put out each week is similar or of quality standard against different teams,” Hooper said.

“Every game you come up against different games – whether it is an attacking or defensive game, or [a game] where you win by three or 50 points. [It’s about] adapting [to] the game the best I can.”

As for the Waratahs forward pack, Hooper believes they will step up their physicality a notch from last season. “We have a big forward pack. We need to be physically up-front,” Hooper said.

“Some good combinations are starting to build on top of last year when we had some really good games, [so it is about] managing the consistency and putting out a good performance each week as a pack.

“When we are doing our job well it’s a fun pack to be a part of [with] big boys running. We want to be intimidating teams with our big forwards.”

 

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Stats
IRE 17 vs AUS 7 Stats
WAL vs NZL 04:30MilS
ENG vs SAM 06:00Twic
FRA vs ARG 07:00StdF
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
 
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