Wednesday 11 December 2019

Michael Hooper: I have a black eye. That's how tough the Cheika regime is

Australia's Michael Hooper sporting a black eye this week
Australia's Michael Hooper sporting a black eye this week

Nick Purewal

New Australia boss Michael Cheika has brought an end to Wallabies stars cosily expecting to command regular selection, according to captain Michael Hooper.

Openside flanker Hooker admitted taskmaster head coach Cheika has disabused his squad of any notion of holding on to starting berths through mediocre performance.

Former Leinster boss Cheika has replaced Ewen McKenzie, who fell on his sword last month amid Kurtley Beale's lewd text saga with business manager Di Patston, who also resigned.

Hooper said Cheika's unremitting training sessions are quickly whipping the Wallabies into shape, the Waratahs captain sporting a healthy black eye from a midweek session as proof.

"I guess a change that Cheiks has brought in is that no one's spot is safe," said Hooper.

"You have got to keep on your game or else your spot is up there for grabs.

"Everyone has got to be playing hard, training hard first of all, and then if you are doing that it should relate to a good performance at the weekend.

"There is an abundance of back-row guys especially, for example, over here and at home who will all be putting up their hand, not only the next two weeks but come next year throughout the Super Rugby season and into the World Cup preparation.

"I got the black eye in training on Monday. It was friendly fire in a nice relaxed controlled drill and I ended up with a shiner.

"It was a complete accident but I guess it's an indication of how tough training has been."

Australia head into Saturday's Aviva Stadium clash aiming to avoid equalling their worst run of form since the fallout from losing the 2013 series against the British and Irish Lions.

The Wallabies' victory over Wales in Cardiff remains their only win in five games, and Hooper admitted Cheika's side have a point to prove in Dublin.

"We need to prove to each other that we can perform our roles really well," said Hooper.

"I think I need to prove to (blindside flanker) Luke Jones that I can perform seven for example; and he needs to prove to me that he can do the number six role well.

"It just works like that and once you get that, your team starts to grow really strong and you're confident in the other guys doing their jobs really well.

"We've almost had that, we've had it in shades this year and it's growing.

"It's something that Cheiks is really serious about and we as players are following in behind him."

Ireland leapfrogged Australia into third place in the world rankings courtesy of their 29-15 victory over South Africa.

Hooper admitted Australia are determined to regain third spot in their bid to kick-start the new era under Cheika.

"It was a really good performance from Ireland against South Africa. We've come up against them a lot through Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship, and they are a tough team to beat," he said.

"So for Ireland to get a win over them is great for them and puts the pressure on us to get a win now.

"They are number three in the world now, a spot that we've held for most of the year.

"But we want to try to get that back, and to do that you've got to go through these guys first."

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