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'Watch and learn from me': Wallabies No 7 battle heats up as Hooper challenged

By AAP
Fraser McReight and James Slipper of the Wallabies walk out ahead of Australia Wallabies Captain's Run at Eden Park on September 23, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Fraser McReight concedes he may still be the apprentice but says “master” Michael Hooper might be taking some notes of his own when the flankers clash in Townsville.

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McReight’s Queensland Reds will host the NSW Waratahs on Saturday in a Super Rugby Pacific match of consequence, with the rivals sitting clear in sixth and seventh positions respectively and keen to move away from the chasing pack.

The battle of the No.7s will provide a tasty subplot, with McReight and Hooper fighting for the one position at this year’s World Cup.

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McReight, 24, has played 10 Tests and again been one of the Reds’ best in 2023.

But former Wallabies captain Hooper – 31 years old and with 124 Test caps – has burst back into form and has the runs on the board in McReight’s eyes.

“He has that leg (up) on me,” McReight said ahead of their latest meeting.

McReight is happy to admit he continues to learn from Hooper on and off the field, although he shrugged his shoulders when asked if he still considered it a master-apprentice relationship.

“People will call it what they want to call it,” he said. “It’s a great battle; I love locking horns with him.

“I’m sure we’ll be right in amongst it, getting involved heavily and have a few wrestles.

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“I can take some awesome things from him and who knows, maybe he can watch and learn from me.”

The pair took part in Eddie Jones’ first Test squad camp on the Gold Coast last month, with the new coach’s direction exciting McReight even if he feels he and Hooper can’t be in the same starting 15.

“It was like first day of school; a lot of anxiety in the whole room,” McReight said.

“It was just cool to see what he actually wanted to do with the team and how he’d take us forward.

“I like the way he wants to play … running the ball and working hard to get the ball back.

“It suits the Wallabies and personally suits me.”

Queensland have won two-straight since coach Brad Thorn announced he would not seek a contract extension at season’s end.

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McReight said the Reds were doing more than playing on raw emotion, with the mid-season bye coming at an ideal time to reassess a season that had stagnated.

“We’ve found something, especially in our attack, that’s coming along really nicely,” he said.

“And it’s always an easy game to get up for (against the Waratahs).”

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