Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has made the shock decision to leave his team in Argentina after revealing that he is not in the right ‘mindset’ to lead his countrymen against the Pumas.
The veteran flanker had been named to lead Australia against Argentina in Mendoza tomorrow morning (AEST), in what would have been his 122nd Test for the Wallabies.
‘GO WATCH LEAGUE’: All Blacks great fires up over rugby code war
‘DEPLORABLE’: Rugby fan at center of disgusting SCG roof act identified
‘IT HURTS’: Wallabies’ excuses wearing thin after series defeat
However, Hooper announced that he was withdrawing from the squad 24 hours before kick-off, with the 30-year-old to miss both matches against the Pumas after deciding to fly home to Australia.
“While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time,” Hooper said in a statement.
“My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don’t feel I am able to fulfill my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie admitted that the skipper’s announcement caught him off guard, and said there were no signs Hooper was struggling in training.
“Nothing that was evident to us in how he trained, how he contributed around the team, around leadership was excellent but clearly he’s been struggling a bit and masking that pretty well,” Rennie told reporters from Argentina on Saturday (AEST).
“Obviously he’s been able to suppress things over the past handful of weeks and so we certainly weren’t aware of anything but he’s such a professional and he was able to get on and do the job.
“He addressed the team today which took an enormous amount of courage to let them know that he’s not OK and that he felt it was best for himself and for the team that he gets home.
“It was an easy decision to let him go home where he will get plenty of support around him.”
Hooper reached out to Wallabies team doctor Sharron Flahive, and after discussions between the pair it was agreed that the best course of action was for Hooper to return home.
James Slipper to lead Wallabies in Michael Hooper’s absence
He will travel back to Sydney with his Waratahs teammate Dave Porecki, who is unavailable for both Tests due to a training head knock.
Fellow Test centurion James Slipper will captain the side in Mendoza, while Fraser McReight will replace Hooper in the number seven jersey.
The Wallabies are hoping to bounce back from their recent 2-1 Test series defeat to England in Australia.
Rennie said that McReight was match-ready after recently playing in the Australia A Pacific Cup series.
“He’s had three 80-minute performances so conditioning-wise it’s not an issue.
“They use the same structures as us and he has been in our group in the past and so he’ll fit seamlessly.”
Hooper captained Australia during their recent 2-1 series loss to England at home and has been a regular presence in the side since making his debut in 2012.
The Wallabies, who have a World Cup in France next year, return to Australia for Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa and New Zealand beginning later this month.
Rennie said 30-year-old Hooper hadn’t given any indication regarding his playing future and they didn’t have a timeline for his return to action.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.