Australian legend Tim Horan says Wallabies captain Michael Hooper should ease back to Test rugby via the bench when he is in the right frame of mind to return.
The Wallabies announced Hooper’s surprise withdrawal from the team in August while on tour in Argentina.
A team statement said he was “not in the mindset to fulfil the responsibility that goes with leading and representing his country” at the time.
Watch every match of the women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand on the home of rugby, Stan Sport. All matches streaming ad-free, live and on demand
As such, the New South Welshman was an omission from the Rugby Championship squad and replaced by James Slipper as captain.
The team won only two of their six matches, beating Argentina in week one and then South Africa in week three.
Speaking on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven, Horan hoped Hooper could return for the end-of-year tour of Europe.
READ MORE: Sledge that fuelled Cody Walker’s post-match anger
READ MORE: Historic win crashes Federer’s retirement party
READ MORE: Cult hero’s fairytale Bulldogs return sealed
That will see Australia face Scotland in October then France, Italy, Ireland and Wales in November.
“[There’s been] a lot of talk about whether Hoops is going to come back and play the last five Test matches on the European tour,” Horan said.
“I reckon we’ve got the back row right now – big size, big bodies. I wouldn’t be surprised if – Hoops, actually, if he does go on tour – if he captains from the bench potentially.
Kellaway’s cheeky question for referee
“Like Fraser McReight on the bench and he comes on in the last 30 [minutes]. Hopefully, we see Michael back.”
“I think he’s in a better space now, from what I’ve heard,” Horan added.
“Hopefully, for Michael Hooper to be in a good space, he wants to be playing rugby again. If that’s the case, he might play a couple of Test matches, but I’d like to see him come off the bench for the first couple and still have a big back row.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was quizzed about Hooper’s spot in the team following their 40-14 thumping at Eden Park.
While remaining coy about the prospect, some news is expected to come soon.
“He’s a wait-and-see,” said Rennie.
White’s message to ‘brave’ Hooper
“We’re in constant communication with Hoops. We’ll let everyone know what the plan is over the next couple of weeks.”
In any case, Horan said Hooper would be an asset for the Wallabies in their final few matches of the year, which would prepare him for the 2023 season ahead.
“The game has changed in the last 18 months,” Horan explained.
“It’s a collision sport now. And you need bigger bodies at the start. What Hoops can do in the last 30, 35 minutes is probably more than he can do in the first 35 minutes and that might help him mentally and also prepare him for test matches going forward.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!
‘I got the yips that night’: Rugby legends trade hilarious yarns on Stan Sport’s Glory Days series