The Wallaby the All Blacks love to hate

The best thing about the Wallabies win over New Zealand on Saturday night was Michael Hooper getting thumped in the head.

I haven't got anything against Michael Hooper mind you, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that the All Blacks have and that has got to be good news.

It means they are actually taking us seriously.

It also means that Hooper is doing his job. He's a pest, an irritation. An annoying little Duracell bunny that never stop getting under the opposition's skin.

 

Why do the All Blacks hate Michael Hooper so much? Maybe this photo tell the story. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP
Why do the All Blacks hate Michael Hooper so much? Maybe this photo tell the story. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP

After Australia's stunning 47-26 win to set up a Bledisloe Cup decider in Auckland, Kiwi coach Steve Hansen bemoaned his team's lack of discipline.

"It was dumb footy and we've got to be smarter than that," he said.

He didn't mention Hooper by name, but he might as well have.

Hooper reeled in the All Blacks forwards hook, line and sinker and the final result was there on the scoreboard for all to see.

There will always be debate over Hooper's place in the side when fellow openside flanker David Pocock is available.

A fully fit Pocock is without question one of the best number sevens world rugby has ever seen.

There are very few in the game who can put self-preservation aside and scavenge for the ball at the breakdown as fearlessly and effectively as him.

Staying on his feet, bending over the tackled player with his head, back and shoulders offering an unprotected target to the incoming opposition, it is a role which earns bruises and respect in equal measure.

 

 

David Pocock has earned nothing but respect from the All Blacks. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
David Pocock has earned nothing but respect from the All Blacks. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Hooper is no slouch in that department himself but he plays a more attacking game than Pocock, often positioning himself out wide in the backline where he is an effective runner with the ball.

Maybe that's one of the reasons the All Blacks don't like him. They don't get as many opportunities to smash him on the ground, and when they do they want to make it count.

Or maybe it's just that, like George "Four More Years, Boys" Gregan and Quade Cooper after him, he bugs the heck out of them.

 

There was no love lost betwee Quade Cooper and Kiwi captain Richie McCaw. Now Michael Hooper is picking up the account. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images
There was no love lost betwee Quade Cooper and Kiwi captain Richie McCaw. Now Michael Hooper is picking up the account. Picture: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Either way, they didn't miss him on Saturday night.

As it is pretty much every time he plays, Hooper's left eye was red and swollen within minutes of kick-off and whenever they caught up with him the Kiwis left him in no two minds about what they think of him.

With three minutes left in the first half All Black backrower Ardie Savea and Hooper both dived for a loose ball as it rolled over the sideline.

As Savea got to his feet he slammed Hooper's head face down into the turf. Result: penalty to Australia.

Two minutes later as Hooper was tackled by New Zealand hooker Dane Coles, Kiwi lock Scott Barrett came in and hit the Aussie skipper in the head with his shoulder and elbow. Result: red card.

 

Sucked right in. Scott Barrett shoulder charges Michael Hooper and gets an early shower in Perth on Saturday night/
Sucked right in. Scott Barrett shoulder charges Michael Hooper and gets an early shower in Perth on Saturday night/

On one hand, Barrett's send-off was disappointing. The Wallabies were playing their best game for years, running straight, playing at pace and holding onto the ball. It would have been interesting to see how they would have fared against a full strength but obviously rattled All Blacks team.

On the other hand, it's maybe the best thing that could have possibly happened just months out from the World Cup.

If the Kiwis hated Michael Hooper before, that's nothing on what they think of him now - and if that helps to mess with their heads in Auckland next Saturday and in Japan come September, who knows?

This time it could be Hooper's turn to say, "four more years, boys."

News Corp Australia


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