He’s learnt how to lead by watching Michael Hooper, now new Queensland captain Liam Wright is gunning for his Wallabies spot.
The pair will lock horns in a Super Rugby trial when Queensland host the NSW Waratahs in Dalby – about 200km inland of Brisbane – on Friday night.
A veteran of 99 Tests, Hooper is the incumbent Australian captain and openside flanker.
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But fellow backrower Wright, who debuted for the Wallabies last year, is breathing down his neck.
“He’s a little energy bunny and puts himself in the right spots to influence the game,” Wright said of Hooper’s leadership strengths.
“Michael does have one hand on the jersey, but I’m going to put all my energy into the Reds having a successful season and hopefully that translates to me having a good season and pushing for that jersey.
“His accolades speak for themself and he’s been a good leader, but we’re not going to let him rest on his laurels.”
Hooper has relinquished his post at the Waratahs this season, continuing a changing of the guard that began with Michael Cheika’s departure as Australian coach after the World Cup.
Hooper says he wants to be “in and around that mix and wanting to do my part, whatever that looks like” for new coach Dave Rennie.
But the focus for now is on Super Rugby and, impressed by Wright’s growing list of “follow me” moments, Hooper said the Reds had chosen wisely.
An interesting move for the ex-Wallabies boss…https://t.co/rbrsOOMgvs
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 24, 2020
“In the backrow, it’s a position that is helpful in leadership, because you get involved with backs and forwards,” Hooper said.
“And he’s a class guy, good around the field and he brought up some big ‘follow me’ moments in games last year.”
Speaking to media in his first interview on Australian soil as new Wallabies boss, Rennie said that Hooper’s position in the national set-up, let alone as captain, isn’t guaranteed as he looks to start his four-year coaching tenure with a clean slate.
“I’ll be on the other side of the world but we’ll be constantly, weekly, talking about where the team’s at, individuals, we’ll constantly pick what we think will be a starting group, so that will fluctuate based on form,” he said.
“I’ve had no real thought around who’s going to be captain or when we’re going to decide that. The key thing for me is about earning the right. All those guys are going to have to play really well to make the team and then we’ll decide who the captain will be.”
Both the Reds and Waratahs have finals aspirations after missing out last season and have named strong sides in the final hit-out before the season begins next Friday.
Kurtley Beale will start at fullback for the Waratahs, while Jordan Petaia is likely to play at least 40 minutes at outside centre for the Reds, after missing the bulk of last season through injury.
– With AAP
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