Monday 19 March 2018

Pocock's insight gets Hooper ready for openside battle

Australia flanker Michael Hooper has set his sights on Lions captain Sam Warburton ahead of the first Test
Australia flanker Michael Hooper has set his sights on Lions captain Sam Warburton ahead of the first Test

Gavin Mairs

Australia flanker Michael Hooper has turned to injured Wallabies captain David Pocock for advice on how to gain the edge on his Lions counterpart Sam Warburton in the crucial battle of the breakdown in Saturday's opening Test in Brisbane.

It was Hooper's scavenging prowess that proved decisive in Australia's victory over England at Twickenham last November when he outfoxed Chris Robshaw. The 21-year-old Waratahs flanker is determined to do a similar job on Warburton.

Hooper believes that, with Warren Gatland's side dominated by Welsh players, Australia already have the psychological advantage as the Wallabies have won their last six Tests against the Six Nations champions. But he is leaving nothing to chance.


"Of course the battle at openside is huge," said Hooper, who before declaring for Australia, would have qualified to play for the Lions himself as his father David was born in Maidstone, Kent.

"Sam has not played too much rugby on this tour, but when he's played he has done some good things. He puts a lot of pressure on the breakdown, but he has a well-rounded game as a seven as well."

Hooper said Pocock had been at training this week and "his presence is a great factor for us in a camp like this. He has great insight into the breakdown and the referee's interpretation of it."

The Lions may have insisted that they will suffer no ill effects from their defeat by the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday, but Hooper believes it has given Robbie Deans' side a valuable insight.

"There are definitely lessons from the Brumbies game," added Hooper. "It proves the Lions are beatable. We can take a fair bit from the way the Brumbies won because we can assume the whole squad will play in a similar way.

"It will be a different team on Saturday and we're expecting quite a large Welsh contingent. We played them a few times last year and won, so we have come across a lot of their players. That familiarity with the Welsh will benefit us.

"We've had the luxury of playing them six times in the last year and a half."

Hooper will be joined in the back-row by Brumbies captain Ben Mowen, who will make his debut as blindside flanker, with No 8 Wycliff Palu also starting having declared he is "ready to go hard" after recovering from a knee complaint. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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