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'Some sort of monster': Eddie Jones buoyant over Wallabies 6 ft 6 versatile prospect

By Ben Smith
Sam Cane of New Zealand and Tom Hooper of Australia look on following the Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Forsyth Barr Stadium on August 05, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Despite the back-to-back Bledisloe defeats to the All Blacks, the emergence of Wallabies loose forward prospect Tom Hooper has been one of the shining lights for Eddie Jones and Australian rugby.

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After a disappointing debut in South Africa that lasted 20 minutes due to a shoulder injury, the 22-year-old returned for his second start to face the All Blacks as an openside flanker after starting at No 6 against the Springboks.

Tasked with slowing down the All Blacks’ ruck, Hooper was everywhere logging 23 first half tackles at the MCG and eventually finished with 32 in an enormous effort.

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For the second Bledisloe he was moved back to blindside flanker, which gave the towering No 6 more ball-in-hand as a carrying option. This week he finished with 18 from 18 tackles made, 10 carries, one try, and two turnovers won.

Eddie Jones was full of praise for Hooper’s ability to play two positions across the back row while joking that he is only using half of his size.

“[He was] combative,” Jones said of his loose forward.

“He’s a young guy at the start of his career. He’s got the capacity to play No 7 but he’s probably a better No 6, but certainly in the right conditions he can play 7.

“He played in that one Test in South Africa and he only lasted 20 minutes, missed Argentina and has come back and played two Tests against New Zealand.

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“He’s still only got half a body. We are still trying to find the other half of his body.

“So when he finds his full body he’s going to be some sort of monster.

“We are looking for it, so when you find half a body roaming around somewhere, bring it back to our dressing room.”

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New Wallabies captain Tate McDermott was extremely pleased with the performance from the loose forward trio as a unit.

The back row generated five turnovers in total while Hooper and Rob Valetini finished first and second in terms of the tackles made.

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“What we are seeing is guys like Tom Hooper and Fraser McReight, those boys are coming out of their shells,” McDermott said.

“Particularly Hoops. This is his third game and he was everywhere tonight. He’s an absolute brick in defence and he’s finding his feet in the attack side as well.

“Not only Hoops, but I thought the backrow was outstanding.”

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Comments

4 Comments
M
Michael 341 days ago

A big lad - what would worry me is he is only 22 and has been out with a shoulder injury already.

At that age they need to use him off the bench initially.

G
Greg 341 days ago

It's their tight five that's the issue. They can have all the other positions covered. Once they start going backwards against Uruguay, no other positions will matter.

U
Utiku Old Boy 342 days ago

As a kiwi, I would say that is definitely the Wallabies best back row. 7 McReight, 6 T. Hooper and 8 Valetini. Once that combination starts to gel through more playing together, they will be hard to beat.

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