With Rugby Australia’s trophy cabinet as bare as their coffers, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has highlighted the significance of landing the Tri Nations title.
Bereft of the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and with only two Rugby Championship triumphs in the past decade – 2011 and 2015 – the Wallabies are making no secret of their desperation to get their hands on some meaningful silverware.
“We’re aware there’s silverware on the line and you want to put that out there. We want to be aware of that,” Hooper said after Australia’s captain’s run in the Hunter Valley on Friday.
“We want to be in this position. We had the Bledisloe before and unfortunately we were unable to hold that up this year.
“And so this opportunity has arisen now and we’re doing everything we can now to make it happen.
“We want to be a team that is consistent and grows in the right direction and, with that, we make no bones about it that we want to put some silverware on in our closet again.
“We’re clear on what we’re trying to achieve and the pressure is on.”
“We’re fully aware of what they’re capable of,” Hooper said.
NRL star Shaun Johnson has appeared to criticise rugby for sending players off for "hitting too hard" and wondered why rugby league isn't as big as union globally.https://t.co/beu09IRVSd
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“So you see a result like that, it doesn’t come as a surprise. It just confirms to us that this is what we’re preparing for.
“They were great in so many areas of the game, showed so much heart and were disciplined and they’ve got some really good players coming through and they’re going to be a threat tomorrow night.”
Hooper nominated his Pumas counterpart and inspirational blindside flanker Pablo Matera, who was immense against the All Blacks, and flyhalf and record-setting point-scorer Nicolas Sanchez as Argentina’s chief threats.
“Matera’s been a world-class back-row player for many years now so it’s not a surprise to myself,” the skipper said.
“He’s a dangerous ball runner, he’s good over the ball so no surprises there. He’s the leader of their group.
“So I’m excited for the challenge.”
The passionate Pumas revelled in front of almost 10,000 fans at Bankwest Stadium last start and are again expected to rise to the occasion at a sold-out McDonald Jones Stadium.
Adding spice, former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will be sitting alongside Pumas mentor Mario Ledesma as one of Argentina’s assistants.
“It’s going to be good. I’ve been really happy with ‘Cheik’ being in that role,” said Hooper, who played under Cheika for seven years in total at the NSW Waratahs and Wallabies, including two World Cups.
“He can offer a hell of a lot. He’s a great coach.”
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Ledesma has full respect for the Wallabies, who are backing up from their own win over the All Blacks.
“It’s a really balanced team,” Ledesma said.
“It’s been a couple of years already that they have an important set-piece – lineout, scrum, driving maul, and obviously offensive threats with the likes of (Hunter) Paisaimi or (Jordan) Petaia or Marika Koroibete.
“The threats are coming from many different places so we have to be spot on with our game plan and our kicking game and control the tempo of the game.”
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