Why on earth would Cheika select Hooper as Wallaby captain?

David Lord Columnist

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    Michael Cheika is no dill, he’s arguably one of the most switched on blokes in world rugby.

    The 50-year-old speaks fluent French, Italian, and Arabic, has built up a hugely successful multi-million dollar fashion house from scratch called ‘Live Fashion’.

    He has done this in and around his time in rugby where he was a fearsome, uncompromising back rower of 300-plus first grade games with the Galloping Greens.

    Every week Randwick’s Shute Shield opponent would ask the big question – “Is Cheika playing this week?”

    A premiership player became a premiership coach before becoming the first to win major tournaments in both hemispheres – the Heineken Cup with Leinster in 2005, and the Super Rugby crown with the Waratahs in 2014, ending a 19-year drought.

    When Cheika took over from Ewen McKenzie as Wallaby coach in November 2014, he had a debut win over Wales 33-18 at Millennium Stadium.

    After 16 internationals Cheika had 11 wins to boast a healthy 68.75 per cent success rate.

    The 16th international was the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, and although the Wallabies were never going to beat the awesome All Blacks, it was no mean feat reaching the decider at Twickenham.

    Since then the Cheika wheels have fallen off.


    (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

    In 18 internationals, the Wallabies have only won eight, or 44.44 per cent, with the Wallabies dropping from two in the world, to fourth.

    Cheika knows only too well he desperately needs a tactical change, and when Stephen Moore unselfishly stood down as captain en route to retirement, the new tactics needed a new skipper.

    Why on earth would under the pump Cheika give Michael Hooper the nod when Hooper’s track record is a whole lot worse than his coach?

    Since rugby turned pro there’s been 19 Wallaby captains, and where does Hooper stand?

    Dead motherless last among the eight skippers who have led the Wallabies in at least ten internationals.

    It’s no surprise John Eales tops the list. Not only was one of the world’s all-time great locks, but he was an inspirational leader who kicked vital goals as well.

    John Eales – 55 captaincy caps – 41 wins – 12 losses – two draws – success rate 76.36 per cent.
    Nathan Sharpe – 10 – 8 3 – 1 – 65 per cent.
    Stirling Mortlock – 29 – 18 – 11 – 0 – 62.06.
    Stephen Moore – 26 – 15 – 11 – 0 – 57.69.
    George Gregan – 59 – 34 – 25 – 0 – 57.62.
    Rocky Elsom – 24 – 13 – 10 – 1 – 56.25.
    James Horwill – 16 – 8 – 8 – 0 – 50.
    Michael Hooper – 15 – 6 – 8 – 1 – 43.33.

    If that wasn’t enough to stop Hooper being Wallaby captain, his abysmal track record with the Waratahs this season should have been the clincher.

    The Waratahs, with 14 Wallabies on their roster totalling 432 caps, finished fourth in the Australian Conference with just four wins from 15 games.

    Michael Hooper Wallabies Australia Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    The only wins they had were two against the last placed Rebels, and one each over the Reds and the Force.

    The Waratahs lost all five against the Kiwi franchises, but no news in that, so did the other four Australian franchises – 0-25 for the tournament.

    There’s enough ammunition in Hooper’s captaincy at Wallaby and Waratah level to never be captain of either side in the future.

    Now Cheika had burdened himself with a proven failure when he’s failing himself – not what you’d call a positive combination.

    Will Genia should be captain with giant lock Adam Coleman his deputy.

    Genia is automatically a leader driving his forwards and setting his backs on fire, so the captaincy will be an easy fit.

    Coleman will make a great captain after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and he’ll learn plenty as Genia’s sidekick.

    Repeating Michael Cheika will be forced to make tactical changes, and will be better supported by Genia and Coleman.

    Hooper will never change.

    And who will be the Wallabies first two opponents?

    The All Blacks on August 19 at ANZ, and August 26 at the Eden Park fortress.

    Unless there’s a miracle, the Cheika success rate since the 2015 Rugby Word Cup final will be 20 internationals for just eight wins.

    A success rate of 40 per cent won’t set the turnstiles clicking.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles