Michael Hooper is refreshed and ready to retake the Wallabies captaincy for this year’s World Cup, if that’s what new coach Eddie Jones wants.
Last August, Hooper shocked the rugby world when he flew home from Argentina on the eve of a test to take a mental health break from the game declaring his “mindset” wouldn’t allow him to fulfil his responsibilities as a player or captain.
He missed six tests then returned for the tour of Europe late last year, but not as captain, with James Slipper filling the role.
But as he prepares for the Waratahs’ season-opening Super Rugby game on Friday, Hooper declared he was ready to take back the captaincy, if it was in the best interests of the team.
“Look, I‘m open to whatever’s best for the team,” Hooper , 31, said on Monday.
“My first and foremost commitment is to play really good rugby and play the best rugby I can for the Tahs and how that then develops later into the year, we‘ll see.
“There‘s so much that can happen in six months, which is what the time frame (is), or maybe even less, to the Test matches over there.”
Hooper hasn’t had the conversation yet with new coach Jones, who replaced Dave Rennie in an abrupt move which also shocked plenty in rugby.
In fact, Hooper said he had “very little” to do with Jones so far, but has an idea what to expect from the new coach who is in his second stint in charge of the national team.
“From the conversations I have had, very impressive,” he said.
“I mean, what a career he’s had and to come back home for him is very exciting. So there’s a huge amount to learn off someone with that amount of experience.”
At 31, and ahead of what looms a monster year with the World Cup in France, Hooper said he couldn’t feel more ready to go.
“Physically and mentally, I feel great,” Hooper said.
“I think when you get closer to the end and you start to realise that it’s about the end, the body of my career, you move on to next week and next game, this or that season and very little time to reflect. There’s still a little time but you start to realise there’s less and less cracks at it.
“Physically, the guys have done a great job with everyone but I feel personally in good shape. Mentally I’m extremely motivated this season coming up and give it my all.
“I know I’m going to be blowing this game. It’s going to be hard, there’s going to be times where I’ve got the hands on the hips and head back and sucking in seagulls like everyone.
“‘I’ll have to dig deep at times, but it’s those times that are fun with these match-ups.”