Michael Hooper has grounds to call himself the most durable rugby player on the planet as he closes on a test landmark that may never be beaten.
Because of his inclusion in Saturday’s team to face Uruguay, Wallabies captain Hooper looks set to play in all of Australia’s games at the Rugby World Cup, continuing a career seemingly coated in teflon.
A 100th test cap looms in the quarter-finals, assuming Australia qualify.
That milestone is nothing exceptional. Sixty players have already raised their ton.
It’s the speed at which 97-test veteran Hooper has raced towards three figures that sets him apart.
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If the landmark arrives in the October 19 quarter-final in Oita, the openside flanker will have taken seven years and 136 days – about 10 months faster than anyone else.
All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock tops the current list, having taken eight years and 67 days to reach his century.
Adding to the legend, Hooper will still be 27. Very few of rugby’s centurions hit the milestone before they turned 30.
Hooper is also regarded as one of rugby’s busiest on-field players, plying his trade in its most demanding position.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 3, 2019
He routinely plays 80 minutes for his country and for the NSW Waratahs, having this year topped the Super Rugby competition tackle count with 223.
Waratahs teammate Jack Dempsey, who starts in the same back row as the skipper this weekend, can scarcely believe what he sees Hooper go through each week.
“The biggest thing that always sticks out about Hoops is not only that he looks after his body so well (but) he can play every week and play 80 minutes,” Dempsey said.
“The level that he plays at consistently is what’s pretty amazing.
“It’s something you can try to emulate, I guess, but he’s kind of another level, I think.”
Not surprisingly, Hooper was the fastest player to reach 50 test caps, achieving it in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup.
Since then, he’s become the youngest player, at 25, to compile 100 Super Rugby caps.
Another Australian No.7 had previously held the mark for quickest test centurion but George Smith has dropped to fourth in recent years, surpassed by Whitelock and fellow All Blacks Mils Muliaina and Kieran Read.
A quick scan of current players with 50 or more caps to their name show none have a mathematical chance of reaching 100 quicker than Hooper.
It means the record will last to the next World Cup and, most probably, beyond.
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