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'Eddie would be feeling the pinch': Michael Hooper on Wallabies' need for hot start

By AAP
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Wallabies legend Michael Hooper has no doubt Eddie Jones will be feeling the heat when Australia chase a desperately needed victory over Georgia in their Rugby World Cup opener in Paris.

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It’s been well-documented how the Wallabies are winless in five Tests since Jones took over from Dave Rennie in January.

What is less heralded is how Jones has now presided over 13 defeats from his past 14 Tests during his two tenures as Wallabies coach.

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Australia lost eight of nine Tests in 2005 before Jones was sacked, and then resurrected his international coaching career in successful stints with South Africa, Japan and England.

He helped Jake White take the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007, coached Japan to a famous first win over South Africa at the 2015 global showpiece and guided England to the 2019 final.

But for all the fanfare around Jones’ second coming as Wallabies coach, the honeymoon is now well and truly over.

The 63-year-old has arrived in France for the 2023 edition under huge pressure to revive the Wallabies’ flagging fortunes.

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“I don’t think anyone is immune from pressure so I think Eddie would be feeling the pinch,” Hooper told Nine radio ahead of Australia’s Cup opener on Sunday morning (AEST).

“This game, to start a World Cup campaign is really, really important (to) get some momentum rolling.

“So a good performance here of playing the Wallaby style of rugby that they want to play is critical and for Eddie just to be able to come in on a Monday and talk real positive about some of the performances that occurred on the weekend.”

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The only man ever to win the John Eales Medal as the Wallabies’ player of the year four times, Hooper was – along with veteran playmaker Quade Cooper – among the two most notable omissions from Australia’s’ 34-strong World Cup squad.

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But the champion flanker set the record straight on speculation that he only found out through a telephone call from the team manager, not Jones.

The 2019 World Cup captain and 125-Test stalwart insists he spoke with Jones and remains confident he would have been picked if not for a lingering calf injury.

Hooper also maintains he’ll be ready to answer any SOS call from the Wallabies during the tournament while he’s in France as a television commentator.

“These things happen quite quickly. You’ve got to pick a squad, there’s injuries, you try to get the right balance. There’s heaps of things that go into this,” the 31-year-old said of his non-selection.

“I got a call like everyone else. I was treated the same as everyone else – and as it should be. I found out like everyone else through a phone call.

“The phone call was quite close to when you need to pack your bags and leave for two months but, like I said, it was the same for everyone.”

Team Form

Last 5 Games

4
Wins
3
4
Streak
1
18
Tries Scored
18
14
Points Difference
46
3/5
First Try
2/5
2/5
First Points
4/5
4/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

If there’s no World Cup call-up, Hooper suspects his professional career playing 15-a-side rugby is likely over.

“I’m pretty much fit to go if I got a call on my phone from over in France. I’m ready to go,” he said.

“So my only regret would not be being ready if that phone call came through, and I’m pretty much there now, or I am there.

“In terms on my 15s career, I’d say it’s starting to be curtains on that. I’m not going to go overseas at this stage, not next year anyway.

“Sevens is a real opportunity and the opportunity to go to an Olympics is there.”

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