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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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