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James Slipper in race with Michael Hooper to set new Wallabies record

By AAP
(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has lauded James Slipper’s loyalty and longevity after the veteran prop recommitted to Australian Rugby until at least the end of 2023.

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Slipper is suddenly in a race with Wallabies captain Michael Hooper to become Australia’s most-capped player after his selfless call to remain with the Brumbies rather than chase a lucrative overseas deal.

“That’s the great thing about Slips. There’s a lot of men who want to ply their trade overseas but he loves it at the Brumbies, loves it with the Wallabies and the chance to stay on Australian soil,” Rennie said on Tuesday.

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“So it was a pretty easy conversation and we were pretty quick to commit to it as well.”

Still only 32 and already with 114 tests under his belt, Slipper is within sight of George Gregan’s record 139 caps.

Playing tighthead and loosehead, Slipper made 14 appearances for Australia in 2021 and could conceivably add another 15 caps this year if the Wallabies’ spring tour features five matches.

And should he retain his form and remain injury-free, there’s nothing stopping Slipper from catching Gregan at the 2023 World Cup in France.

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“Certainly with his versatility, his potential of going to (a fourth) World Cup would be massive,” Rennie said

“His ability to play both sides of the scrum and genuinely play both sides is a real rarity in international footy.

“Then his work ethic: he’s big defensively, he’s got a bit of a mean streak in him around clean-out, so he’s been huge.”

With Hooper carrying a foot injury, Slipper captained the Wallabies on the final match of last year’s northern hemisphere tour against Wales.

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He trails Hooper by four test caps but doesn’t sit too far behind the champion flanker in the leadership stakes.

“He’s had a big leadership role with our guys. He’s a real doer but he speaks well (too). When he speaks, it’s really succinct. He nails it,” Rennie said.

“He’s respected, the guys listen and he’s been a massive contributor the last couple of years.”

Slipper has been part of three Wallabies Rugby World Cup squads (2011, 2015 and 2019) and has the unique ability to play on both sides of the scrum, making him a highly valued member of any team he plays in.

Joining the Brumbies at the end of 2018 after nine seasons at the Queensland Reds, the 32-year-old has continued to improve and develop his game, becoming one of the premier props in world rugby.

A respected player and leader amongst his peers, Slipper won a Super Rugby trophy with the Reds in 2011 before helping lead the Brumbies to the 2020 Super Rugby AU title.

“I’m really happy to have re-signed with Rugby Australia and the Brumbies until the end of next year,” Slipper said.

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