The Wallabies are set to receive a welcome boost, with inspirational leader Michael Hooper to return for their end of season Spring Tour.
Hooper, 30, has not been sighted since he withdrew on the eve of the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in August.
His sudden withdrawal was applauded worldwide, with the four-time John Eales Medallist’s decision considered “brave” and “courageous” by coach Dave Rennie.
Former England captain Will Carling – one of the most respected voices in the game – said Hooper’s decision to admit he was not in the right mindset to play international rugby showed real leadership.
“Very few people can understand how incredible it is to capt(ain) your country, but also how draining,” Carling said.
“This honesty reflects a hugely impressive leader.
“To those that say it is weak – impressive leaders stay the course.
“What is impressive/honest is that he is saying he would not do (the) job as well as he could/should. Many would just carry on, lesser performance – but still there.
“He has said that is not good enough for him.”
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But after missing the entire six-match campaign for health reasons, Hooper, as was revealed last month, is poised to return to the Wallabies’ squad for their five-Test campaign of the United Kingdom and Europe.
Rennie had hoped to name his Wallabies squad for the tour on Wednesday, but are likely to push back the announcement until Friday.
Hooper took two weeks away from the game when he returned from Argentina and has kept in regular contact with the Wallabies.
After training away from the main group throughout The Rugby Championship, he has integrated back to the field with some of his Wallabies teammates in Sydney. He has also caught up with senior players off the field.
His long-time teammate Bernard Foley, who is also poised to be named in the Wallabies squad as one of Rugby Australia’s Overseas Eligibility selections, said Hooper was in a good place and was excited about the tour ahead.
“We’ve had some brief chats recently,” said Foley, speaking at an Aqua Rugby event ahead of their November event in Manly.
“I think he’s in a place where he’s excited, which is when he’s at his best.
“I think he’s still working on it. It’s going to be ongoing. Just what he went through and to see him wanting to come back is really exciting.”
Hooper is the Wallabies’ most capped captain ever, but it’s understood the star playmaker will ask not to lead them going forward.
Those close to him believe Hooper wants to challenge for a place in the side following the breakthroughs of Pete Samu and Fraser McReight. It’s believed Samu won’t be considered as a specialist No.7 now Hooper has returned.
It’s also understood Hooper wants to enjoy some of the other aspects to touring life, which are not always afforded for the captain who is required at extra meetings and functions.
“Hoops is being Hoops,” Foley said. “That’s how you want him.
“I don’t think he’s going to drastically change. It’s good to see him being himself.”
Meanwhile, Australia A have named their team for the third and final team for Friday’s unofficial Test against a Japanese XV.
Waratahs playmaker Ben Donaldson has been named at fly-half, with his Super Rugby teammate Tane Edmed named on the bench. It comes as the duo fight for selection for the upcoming tour, with Noah Lolesio’s place in the side not assured following Foley’s return.
Tom Banks has been named at fullback alongside wingers Mark Nawaqanitawase and Suliasi Vunivalu.
Fullback Jock Campbell and loose-head prop Matt Gibbon have returned to Australia, with both players expected to be named in the Spring Tour squad.