Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has revealed what he said to All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick after the Kiwi’s cheap shot early in Bledisloe I, while reflecting on the Wallabies’ preparation for the must-win game two at Eden park on Saturday.
After making a tackle on George Bower in the 25th minute, Hooper was retreating out of the breakdown to avoid interfering with play when Retallick smashed through his back with a brutal shoulder-led tackle, sendng Hooper’s head into a whiplash.
Hooper appeared angry at the time and Retallick escaped punishment with referee Paul Williams deeming it was a fair tackle.
Retallick was the All Black’s most penalised player with four of their 18 in a particulary ill-disciplined performance by the home team.
He was pinged for a high shot on halfback Tate McDermott, and was a man possessed in defence.
“He got me good! That’s what I said to him out there – ‘I didn’t miss playing you’,” Hooper told a pre-match press conference on Friday.
“It had been a while since I ran up against Brodie. But that’s Test match footy. There’s a lot of that stuff that’s missed and over the attrition of the game that stuff adds up and wears you down.
“Both teams, I’m sure, will be putting it out there tomorrow.”
Here are the highlights from Hooper’s media conference.
On Noah Lolesio’s performance in game one
“The guy is super confident he’s been growing as a player,” Hooper said.
“His first starting Test was in Sydney last year and he’s come on leaps and bounds. He’s had an outstanding French series with the boot and ball in hand.
“There were some parts of his game that that were really nice last week. The boot was a bit off for him but he’ll bounce back. All good No.10s will have games like that in their careers.
“He’s been really positive and owning his role. To have a game like that is is only going to reaffirm what it’s going to take for him to become a better player and a better 10.
“If we only look at negatives we’re never going to get anything out of it but him as a player, his development, he’ll take a lot from that game.”
On the return of Marika Koroibete and his mood
“He can’t wait to get out in the field,” said Hooper.
“It was tough for him sitting in the stands last week and, seeing his reaction in training this week I can’t wait to see him with ball in hand and without ball in hand. The guy is so dangerous all across the field, it’s great to have him back.”
On respect for NZ and his team’s motivation
“We do respect NZ and the All Blacks but we don’t fear them,” said Hooper. “We’re going out there to impose our game on them and it’s Australia v NZ rugby. A lot’s been made of [the respect] issue but it always is in these kind of weeks.
“We play for a lot of reasons. We talk about that often in our team rooms. A common and big factor within our team is playing for ‘our people’.
“It’s part of our identity, part of who we are as a team and we want to represent them.
“It’s great in Australia when you play a good game and the jerseys come out the next morning and there’s people walking their dogs, wearing the Wallaby gold.
“Unfortunately with lockdown I don’t know how many people can do that at the moment, but hopefully they are in their living rooms or with friends over zoom.
“We’re feeling greatly supported away from home. It’s been tough for us. Every person, staff and players on the team has their challenges like everyone else in the world at the moment, we’re just a little cross section of that.”
On the return of Lachie Swinton and the new look backrow
“I’m really looking forward to Swinno’s ball play,” Hooper joked. “No, look the dynamic is a good one. I really enjoyed training with those guys this week.
“Swinno looks in great shape and good form and [Rob Valetini] is really improving and going from strength to strength at this level.
“I don’t think you’ll see much different out of him even though he’s wearing an eight on his back as opposed to six. His presence in ‘d’ and attack, hopefully we can give him more of it.”
With regard to Swinton’s previous discipline issues and how he expects him to play, Hooper said: “You need to find a balance.
“With every player, even my position, it’s how much do you want to put your head into a breakdown. What’s going to benefit the team the most.
“All of our positions, Swinno included, are thinking how can we as a group and individually have a real influence and benefit the team. That’s what he’ll be thinking for sure and he’ll be bringing what he knows.”
On the return of Samu Kerevi for the third game
“I haven’t seen much of him [lately], so I don’t want to talk out of school,” Hooper said.
“What I’ve heard, just through the sevens campaign, he’s fit and wants to be involved. Samu in 2019 in Super Rugby was one of the best attacking players across all of the countries, so that’s exciting to have that kind of influence around the group.
“More competition makes for guys pushing harder, so it’s exiting for him and the squad as well. He’ll be thankful to be in the group.”