Axed Wallaby reveals one ‘regret’ after World Cup snub

When the Wallabies revealed their World Cup squad last month, the rugby world stood still. Coach Eddie Jones had swung the axe and made a series of bold selection calls that nobody saw coming.

Playmaker Quade Cooper and talented centre Len Ikitau were among the big-name omissions, but the absence of former Australian skipper Michael Hooper was simply staggering.

In the early hours of Thursday, August 10, the Australian rugby public was sent into a frenzy as reports of Hooper’s axing began to break online. That night, it was made official by the Wallabies.

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Five loose forwards were picked in the Wallabies’ 33-man squad, and Hooper wasn’t one of them. Coach Jones had dropped a bombshell mere weeks out from the World Cup.

Hooper picked up a “minor strain” to his calf while on international duty with the Wallabies in South Africa, and ended up missing the rest of The Rugby Championship.

That may have sealed his fate – but Hooper hasn’t given up hope completely. The former Wallaby will only have one “regret” after being dropped, and that’s “not being ready” if coach Jones needs him.

“Yeah, look, I mean, it’s probably of bit of everything, right? The tough thing was the re-injury and ‘how long is this thing?’ Calves have a bit of a notorious nature about them,” Hooper told Wide World of Sports.

“There was a bit of ambiguity there. It wasn’t as clean, probably, as some injuries are. Usually with an injury, you can push through the pain a bit. What I learned from this is this is not a type of push-through pain situation.

“This needs to be right for it to take the load and the load really increases when you run. The calf was a bit fiddly in terms of how that all came out.

“Look, the timing didn’t work out and the situation wasn’t right, so that’s right. I’ve been on the right side of it for so long and I wasn’t on the right of it this time.

“So in terms of timing, in terms of selection, all those things – my only regret will be not being ready if I’m called upon. So, I’m pretty much there now.”

Hooper features on the front cover of the World Cup’s official guide along with Ardie Savea, Siya Kolisi, Maro Itoje and Jonathon Sexton.

It seemed, up until the morning of August 10, that Hooper was practically a certainty to go to France. But coach Jones has a plan, and at least at this stage, it doesn’t involve the veteran flanker.

“You never know what can happen,” Hooper added.

“I’m not needing real certainty around it. It’s just I’ve got to be ready if I’m called up.”

The Wallabies are winless under coach Jones this year. Australia were beaten by South Africa, Argentina and twice by New Zealand before naming their squad for rugby’s showpiece event.

Coach Jones named an inexperienced squad across the board, with the Wallabies picking the youngest squad out of any nation at this year’s World Cup.

With Fraser McReight in the No.7 jersey – not Hooper – the Wallabies had their final hit out before the World Cup against hosts France in Paris almost two weeks ago.

Playing in front of a surreal crowd at Stade de France, the Wallabies showed plenty of fight but ultimately came up short – well short, in the end. They were beaten by Les Bleus 41-17.

“I didn’t get up and watch it live. I had an early start anyway with the kids up early so I knew that I could catch it and digest it properly later in the day.

“It looked amazing there. The French stadium, it was going off. It would have been a cool game to be a part of but great for our guys to get a look at a serious crowd and atmosphere and what’s going to be coming in the next two weeks.

“In terms of that, you couldn’t ask anything more from a Test match. Hopefully, we can lift up the performance rating from there, but certainly a nice hit out to have.”

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