Heritage. This is something that Wallabies have struggled to imprint on the minds of young boys and girls for years.
Losing does that.
But ahead of Wednesday night’s opening test against France at Suncorp Stadium, it’s the change in rhetoric coming from Wallabies captain Michael Hooper that could see a change in the wind.
Hooper, the maligned Wallabies captain who has at times been a lone wolf in a hard-beaten camp, has often looked like a desperate and serious soul. Losing does that.
As the defeats piled up under Hooper’s watch, frustration weighed on his shoulders and built on his face.
Yet the best thing that could have happened in his career was a five-month sabbatical in Japan, where he returned with renewed energy and focus after playing alongside former All Blacks captain Kieran Read at Toyota. , whose rugby director is Steve Hansen.
Since the return, the change in Hooper’s stern face and voice has finally given way to the laid-back Manly kid who has always been there, but rarely shown.
His team-mate Harry Wilson said the biggest difference he had noticed with Hooper upon returning from his sabbatical was that the skipper seemed “a little more relaxed this year”.
Speaking to reporters after the Wallabies captain’s run on Tuesday, Hooper laughed when he heard his teammate’s reply from the back.
âMaybe ‘Willso’ gives me more stick now, he’s a little more comfortable and confident, so he’s giving me more,â Hooper said.
âLast year was his first in the midst of the Wallabies and now he’s stinging a bit. He is stirring the pot, so I’m glad he said that in the media.
While this is anything but fun and games for the Wallabies who desperately need to regain some credibility after slipping to seventh in the world, Hooper’s understanding of leadership has grown in Japan as Hansen, along with the head coach Simon Cron, set out to change the culture of the club.
In his first media interview last month, Hooper said he was happy to be asked what legacy he wanted to leave in Australian rugby.
Again, on the eve of the season opener, a year that could define his career, Hooper spoke of a desire to do something more than personal.
âWe have a unique experience here of playing three games in 11 days,â he said.
âWe want to win this.
âWe put that word out and the players talked about winning and that’s what we want to do.
âWe don’t want to hesitate to talk like that.
“We talked about the mark we want to leave, and I talked last time about the mark we want to leave on Australian rugby and the future generations of players, guys who are 13 and 14, we would love them. see see a winning team these series. “
Wallabies teams of the past have often uttered lines expressing their confidence in winning back the Bledisloe Cup.
Still, it’s been 18 years since the Wallabies won a series against the All Blacks.
The difference in Hooper’s language was that there weren’t any sweeping statements about what they would win, but why they had to win to inspire the next generation of talent.
This is the fourth full year that Hooper has started the season as captain, having inherited the team in mid-2017.
But after his stint in Japan, Hooper says his leadership style is different for Dave Rennie’s second season as boss.
“Yeah, yeah, I would say so,” said the 105-test veteran after much thought. âIt would probably take a little longer to answer that.
âThere have been changes here, and a real desire to work together and bring out each of our strengths and know how that can be influenced on the team.
âI think a lot of our leaders have a great understanding of themselves in order to provide the best that we can to the team, and we have great guys who can speak well in front of the group, who lead well by the way. ‘action and can control a game very well and it’s about bringing it to light so that some of the younger ones can thrive in their wallaby careers as well.
Hooper admitted that there was “a bit of an unknown” about the new French look, which has just 135 experience selections in total.
Tourists have not won an event on Australian soil since 1990.
On their last tour of Australia, the Wallabies won 3-0.
Hooper became the youngest Wallabies captain since Ken Catchpole, after a season-ending knee injury for Stephen Moore in the opening minutes of the first Test which saw the home side win 50-23 in Brisbane .
Hooper said the Wallabies were ready if the game was either âattritionalâ or âupbeat and quickâ.
Hooper forms an exciting and well-balanced back row which also included Rob Valetini, the loose Brumbies forward whom Rennie said is the Super Rugby player.
The Australian captain said he was delighted to see Valetini’s progress, after being blown away by a training session in Tokyo during the 2018 Spring Tour where the Brumbies teenager âdominatedâ.
âSuper impressed with Bobby,â he said.
âHe had this breakout workout in 2018 when he came to Spring Tour and in Japan we had a week to kill and he just came out of that workout and dominated it.
âFrom there he had a few setbacks, with injuries and a build in his body and the confidence that is now really visible with his rugby.
âHe’s been exceptional and consistently exceptional all year round and confidence is everything as a player and he has a lot of it right now.
“I am delighted that he is now taking this opportunity to get him to Test level and it is exciting for him and for us.”
The French will fly to Brisbane on Tuesday evening, after completing their mandatory two-week quarantine period in Sydney where they have been allowed to travel between their hotel and the training paddock.