Hooper out, Pocock to captain Wallabies against Argentina

Hooper out, Pocock to captain Wallabies against Argentina
David Pocock will captain the Wallabies for the 7th time. Photo: Spectrum Communications, Wikimedia Commons

Michael Hooper has been withdrawn from the Wallabies team to play the Puma’s tonight due to an ongoing hamstring strain. David Pocock, arguably the best Australian player this season, will play in Hooper’s number 7 jersey and replace him as captain with Pete Samu starting at 8 to cover Pocock and Ned Hanigan coming into the bench.

Hooper missed the final matches of the Waratahs season, including their tilt at the finals, due to a hamstring strain suffered in the 3rd test against Ireland in June. With his replacement as Waratahs captain and Wallabies vice-captain Bernard Foley benched this week the only options as captain were Pocock, who is highly regarded as a leader, and the experienced Will Genia.

Argentina are a side that is known more for their pace and energy around the field than their set piece, so Hooper’s speed and work rate will be sorely missed by the Wallabies. With Pocock and Samu playing together, however, the Argentinians will have their work cut out for them at the ruck.

In other changes from last week’s win over the Springboks Adam Coleman returns from the maternity ward with a new son and to the bench, replacing Rob Simmons, while Israel Folau comes back from injury on the wing, pushing Jack Maddocks to the bench. Sekope Kepu has been named as the reserve loose-head prop, taking the place of Tom Robertson. This is Folau’s first time starting on the wing since 2014, with all 61 caps since then coming at fullback.

The experimental midfield from last week has been retained, with Kurtley Beale playing five-eighth while Matt Toomua is at 12. They can be expected to have a better combination this week, with Toomua having the chance the rest from constant flights to the UK and back and an extra week of training together.

Los Pumas played extremely well against the All Blacks last week, only going down in the last 20 minutes. The New Zealanders admittedly played their “B” team, but Argentina demonstrated a willingness to play hard, running rugby – although weaknesses were exposed at the set piece. The Wallabies should still take this game, and all the disruption of the last two weeks will serve them well in the long run.