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Richie McCaw's flame still burning bright, says Michael Hooper

Richie rich: Richie McCaw at training on Friday.

Richie rich: Richie McCaw at training on Friday. Photo: AP

The question to Wallabies captain Michael Hooper was never going to get the answer the reporter wished for: is his All Blacks opponent Richie McCaw a spent force?

Hooper may have led the Waratahs to their first Super Rugby title two weeks ago by defeating the Crusaders in a game where McCaw, a veteran of 126 Tests, gave away the final penalty that led to them losing the final 33-32.

But even if he believed the error by McCaw was a sign that his star is on the wane, Hooper would never have given the question any weight – out of genuine respect for the All Blacks captain, and commonsense on the eve of a Bledisloe Cup clash.

If anything, Hooper, who will come up against McCaw as opposing No.7s in Saturday’s Test at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, looked a little stunned when he was popped the question on Friday.

But after a pause, he replied: “[With the] 127 or 129 caps that Richie has got now, there is no chance he is a spent force.”

He then added: “I am pretty pumped to take him on and to run out there against him.”

Hooper also dismissed the notion McCaw would return to ANZ Stadium intent on avenging his costly role in the Super Rugby final's outcome.

“Richie is probably a good enough player to be thinking about the task ahead, and not be dwelling on previous things,” Hooper said. “He would be looking – I assume – forward and looking at how he can get over the line with his team [on Saturday].”

But Hooper, 22, would not label McCaw, 33, as the world benchmark for a No.7, saying it is because of their varying styles.

“It’s hard to say. Every seven plays a different game,” Hooper said.

“I would play a different game to Richie. Richie would play a different game to guys in the past like a ‘Poey’ [David Pocock] or a George Smith. Everyone brings different things to the table. He is very good at disrupting opposition ball and he is a physical presence on the team. One of the biggest things is what he would bring to an All Blacks jersey.”

Despite the anticipation of their head-to-head clash, Hooper said they might not cross paths outside of the coin toss before the game as much as many might hope.

“Like with so many positions … you very rarely run into each other – maybe a couple of times a game, maybe at a breakdown here or there, a run or a tackle,” Hooper said.

But Hooper did predict fireworks as the All Blacks chase a record 18th Test win in a row – the highest winning streak for a top-tier rugby nation – and the Wallabies being desperate to take back the Bledisloe Cup this season for the first time in 12 years.

Asked to describe the step up of intensity from Super to Test rugby, Hooper said: “Those last few games of Super Rugby were pretty full-on – the Brumbies [semi-final] was especially physical and the Crusaders [final] was a cracking match to play in – physical and fast.

"This first [Bledisloe Cup Test] … there is going to be a lot of heat there – [with it being the] first one against the All Blacks. We are going to try and impose ourselves upon these guys and they are trying to get a winning steak. There is going to be some big clashes going straight away.”

3 comments so far

  • The only similarity between McCaw and Hooper is the number seven on their back . They will rarely touch each other . Hooper is the flash everywhere man , and with the long hair he is easy to see . McCaw is less conspicuous , he is not looking for attention . That's his strength as he goes about all the hard tight work that sevens do . He has defined the position . Perhaps Hooper will redefine it , or perhaps not .

    Commenter
    Mankad
    Location
    The Bush
    Date and time
    August 16, 2014, 9:28AM
    • “Like with so many positions … you very rarely run into each other – maybe a couple of times a game, maybe at a breakdown here or there, a run or a tackle,” Hooper said.

      UNBELIEVABLE!! And there lies the problem with Hooper at No 7.

      The only way that Hooper can not run into Richie like this is if he continues to avoid early involvement at the breakdown as he has done for most of 2014. Too often he's 3rd or 4th to the breakdown or placing his hand on a shoulder or bum to grab the 'involvement' statistic.

      Hooper won't find Richie too often if Hooper continues to play like an extra Centre or Wing.

      This is the reason why Hodgson got 5 turnovers in the Force's two games against the Tahs in 2014 and Hooper got NIL. And 6 tries to Hoopers 2 for the season - most pulled from out of a pack when being up close and personal not from seagulling our wide.

      Wallabies will only beat the ABs if they can, at best, keep even with the ABs at the breakdown.

      Commenter
      AndrewWA
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      August 16, 2014, 10:46AM
      • Gobsmacked by the comments from Hooper re Richie McCaw:

        'Despite the anticipation of their head-to-head clash, Hooper said they might not cross paths outside of the coin toss before the game as much as many might hope.

        “Like with so many positions … you very rarely run into each other – maybe a couple of
        times a game, maybe at a breakdown here or there, a run or a tackle,” Hooper said.'

        UNBELIEVABLE!!! The reason why Hooper should not be the Wallaby No 7.

        Also the reason why in the two games against the Force in 2014 Hodgson got 5 turnovers against Hoopers NIL.

        Hodgson also scored 6 tries to Hooper's 2 with almost all of them pulled out of a pack while being up close and personal with the opposition.
        (Also remember the one from the loose ball get while running in support).

        In 2014 Hooper has too often been 3rd or 4th to the breakdown or just arriving in time to place his hand on someone's shoulder or bum so that he can grab an 'involvement' stat. Usually he's found seagulling as an extra Centre or Wing.

        I recognize that Richie may be past his best, but if the Wallabies can't at least break even with the ABs at the breakdown I fear that we're in for a long night!!!

        Commenter
        Force Fan
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        August 16, 2014, 11:04AM

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        Super Rugby 2015

        Round 1
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        STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
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        HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
        FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
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        CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
        CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
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        BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
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        CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
        BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
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        BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
        RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
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        HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
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        CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
        HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
        RED vs BRU 29 Stats
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        STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
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        HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
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        CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
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        BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
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        HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
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        SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
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        Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
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        BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
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        SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
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        CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
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        FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
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        HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
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        BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
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        CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
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        CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
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        LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
        STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
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        Round 12
        Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
        BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
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        BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
        HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
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        CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
        BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
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        CRU 58 vs RED 17 Report Stats
        REB 42 vs BLU 22 Report Stats
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        HUR 32 vs SHA 24 Report Stats
        FOR 18 vs WAR 11 Report Stats
        LIO 28 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
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        STO 25 vs BRU 24 Report Stats
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        BLU 23 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
        RED 46 vs REB 29 Report Stats
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        WAR 33 vs SHA 18 Report Stats
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        CHT 24 vs HIG 45 Report Stats
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        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
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        WAR 32 vs CRU 22 Report Stats
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        Round 16
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        CRU 35 vs HUR 18 Stats
        BRU 22 vs BUL 16 Stats
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        SHA vs REB 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
        HIG vs CHF 17:35Rugby Park
        FOR vs RED 19:40nib Stadium
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        STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
        LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
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        HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
        FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
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        REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
        BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
        RED vs CHF 19:40SS
        CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
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        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
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        REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
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        BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
        CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
        WAR vs RED 19:40AS
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        BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
        SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
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        7 vs 7 09:00
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        7 vs 7 09:00
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