Former Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper is BACK after a mental health break as besieged Wallabies coach Dave Rennie announces the squad that may shape his future
Australian rugby star Michael Hooper returns from personal leave to join the Wallabies on their tour of the Northern Hemisphere, but has not recovered as captain.
The 30-year-old has not played since he withdrew from the squad on the eve of the Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in August.
Hooper did not specify the reasons for his withdrawal, other than that he was not in the right mood to play.
Hooper returns to the Wallabies after a mental health break, but has not been named captain
Coach Dave Rennie named a 36-man squad on Sunday, including Hooper, but said prop James Slipper would continue as captain for the five-test tour.
“It’s great news from our perspective. He’s very excited about traveling and playing,” Rennie said of Hooper.
“He’s been putting in a lot of work over the past week and has been training with our guys from Sydney over the past few weeks, but we’d like him to come in and just focus on himself.
“We know that he will lead by example and that he will contribute from outside that leadership group and that is very important to us.”
Captain James Slipper and coach Dave Rennie pose for a team photo at Eden Park in Auckland
Rennie selected five uncapped players, with Melbourne Rebels prop Sam Talakai and NSW’s five-eighth Ben Donaldson and outside back Mark Nawaqanitawase included for the first time.
Donaldson and Nawaqanitawase impressed in the Australia A program in Fiji and Japan alongside Jock Campbell and Langi Gleeson, the other two players to make their European debut.
Code hopper Suliasi Vunivalu was the biggest omission after failing to capitalize on his chances in Australia A’s recent matches against Japan, putting his participation in next year’s Rugby World Cup into question.
Veterans Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor as well as young No.8 Harry Wilson were also left out.
“Suli had some nice touches there, but when we looked at the players who had the biggest impact and played the best on that A tour – Tom Banks, Jock Campbell and Mark – it was three standouts and in the end they played better than Suli,” Rennie told reporters.
Uncapped Wallaby Ben Donaldson gets his chance after being named by coach Rennie
Rennie has selected two foreign-based players to the squad, with La Rochelle lock Will Skelton recalled after appearing in all three games off the bench last year during last year’s spring tour.
“He made a huge impact in La Rochelle and when they won the European Cup last year, Will was chasing the house,” said Rennie.
“He’s a big man intimidating other big men, and 140 pounds behind your tight props which come in handy during scrum time… we’re really excited to get him in.”
Japan-based five-eighth Bernard Foley, who returned to the Test arena in the Bledisloe Cup series last month, is the other foreign-based player chosen.
Vunivalu is one of the high profile omissions from the Wallabies squad for the upcoming tour
The squad kicks off their campaign with a test against Scotland in Edinburgh before their first game against France in Paris since 2016.
They then face Italy in Florence for Tests against Ireland in Dublin and Wales in Cardiff to complete their 2022 season.
The squad assembles in Sydney on Tuesday before starting the five-game tour the following day.
Australian Wallabies squad for Northern Hemisphere tour
Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Banks, Jock Campbell, Ben Donaldson, Folau Fainga’a, Lalakai Foketi, Bernard Foley, Matt Gibbon, Nick Frost, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon, Ned Hanigan, Reece Hodge, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway, Noah Lolesio, Lachlan Lonergan, Tate McDermott, Fraser McReight, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Cadeyrn Neville, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip, David Porecki, Tom Robertson, Pete Samu, Will Skelton, James Slipper (c), Sam Talakai , Taniela Tupou, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Tom Wright.