“Michael is one of the most professional and impressive men I have coached (and) I know this was a difficult decision for him,” Rennie said in a statement.
“He has shown real courage in recognizing where he stands and acting on it. We will support him in any way we can and I know the team will focus on getting the job done tomorrow.”
Hooper isn’t the first high-profile athlete to give up their sport to prioritize mental wellbeing. Buddy Franklin missed the final stages of the 2015 AFL season to focus on his mental health and Australian cricketer Glenn Maxwell took two months off in 2019 to restore balance. Maxwell said five years on tour had “ruined” him.
Hooper is one of Australia’s most enduring athletes, but has played a lot in the past two years, having played in Japan last year and then led the Wallabies through tough times during the pandemic.
McReight is a very competent substitute, given his excellent form for Queensland and Australia A this year. Rennie prefers to have only one openside in his matchday 23, and has pointed out that Samu is able to cover Hooper.
But the value of the Australia A program will shine through again when McReight takes over as No.7. He was controversially left out of the Wallabies squad for the England series in July, and instead sent off to play in the Pacific Nations Cup. The 23-year-old, who made his debut in 2020 but has only won two caps, played in every game and rejoined the Wallabies roster for the trip to Argentina with plenty of match fitness.
Slipper, meanwhile, has emphasized the importance of starting strong against Argentina, to temper the passion of the Pumas players and their fans in a sold-out Estadio Malvinas Argentinas. The hall, built for the 1978 FIFA World Cup, can accommodate 42,000 people.
The problem for the Wallabies is that their starts were poor against England and they failed to score a run in the first 20 minutes of all three Tests. Two attempts were bombed in the first 10 minutes of the third Test.
“It’s an important part of the game, the beginning, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter who you play against, if you catch up with rugby, against whoever, you get off how you want to play the game,” Slipper said.
“For us, it’s about nailing ourselves to the details and it’s one thing to create opportunities and another to seize them. Honestly, we’ve talked a lot this week about our detailing and our execution. If there’s one place is where you want to start well, it’s here, the Argentine team and the fans are very passionate and you can’t let that grow.”
More to come