New Zealander Dave Rennie has made the biggest call to date since coming on board as Wallabies coach by reappointing incumbent captain Michael Hooper to take his team forward.
While it’s a new dawn in Australian rugby, Rennie has opted for the experience and hard-nosed approach of Hooper to drive the Wallabies forward in the post-Michael Cheika era. The next generation of Australian leaders like Fraser McReight and Liam Wright will have to wait.
During Cheika’s six-year reign, the Wallabies coach was regularly accused of showing favourism and being “blue eyed” towards the Waratahs and, in particular, Hooper.
But Rennie’s decision emphatically smashes the pedestal that many think Hooper stands on.
Hooper – barring injury – will lead the Wallabies out against the All Blacks on October 11 at Sky Stadium in Wellington for his 100th Test. He will become the quickest player in Test history to reach the century milestone
Only George Gregan (59) and John Eales (55) have led the Wallabies on more occasions than Hooper (46), but Rennie’s appointment should see the openside flanker become the longest serving Australian captain in the nation’s history.
Ever since first addressing the Australian media on January 23, Rennie has made it crystal clear that he would pick his team first and captain next.
Form would be the driver of selection and for that reason he would wait until appointing his captain unlike the All Blacks who appointed Sam Cane as their skipper in May.
On Wednesday, Rennie said the decision to reappoint Hooper was an easy one given his consistency throughout 2020.
“I’ve been really impressed with Hoops,” Rennie said.
“We’ve spoken a lot over the past nine months and it’s highlighted his passion and commitment.
“He’s a good man with an outstanding work ethic and he’s a great role model for our young men coming through.
“He’s keen to lead, and is highly respected by the Wallaby family. In the end his appointment was a straight forward decision.”
Hooper became the youngest player in half-a-century when he was thrust into the role in 2014 as a 22-year-old when Stephen Moore went down with injury against the French in Brisbane.
Since then the boy from Manly has always said that captaincy is a “privilege” and not something he’s craved nor sought.
On being appointed, Hooper maintained that stance and added that he was encouraged by what was brewing at the Wallabies in the early stages of the Rennie-era.
“It’s an absolute honour to be the Wallabies captain and I want to thank Dave, the Wallabies management team as well as Rugby Australia for their support and endorsement,” Hooper said in a statement.
“It’s a privilege to wear the Wallabies jersey, I feel proud to lead my teammates and to represent those players that have before and all Australians.
“I’m really excited about this group and the direction we are heading. We have already spent some quality time together, defining who we are and what we stand for and what we play to achieve in the coming months.”
Last month former teammate Stephen Hoiles and current Wallabies teammate Matt To’omua told RUGBY.com.au that appointing Hooper as captain was a “no-brainer”.
“I think he’s been a great captain and I think he’s only going to get better,” To’omua said.
“Yes, it hasn’t been the most successful time but these are learning moments for him.
“I’d caution against (a change). He just has a wealth of knowledge and experience and that’s all a part of it.
“I look back to England in 2015 and then where they went to in 2019, I don’t think they get to the final in 2019 if they don’t experience that hardship and, to me, that’s how I see our journey with Australia as well.
Nor does the decision mean that Hooper will necessarily captain the Wallabies right throughout the four-year World Cup cycle.
Both of last year’s World Cup finalists switched their captains midway through the previous four-year cycle, with Springboks back-rower Siya Kolisi taking over Warren Whiteley in 2018 and England playmaker Owen Farrell from Dylan Hartley.
A similar situation could take place with the Wallabies, with Hooper to turn 29 next month.
Nonetheless, his appointment means that he will wear the No.7 against the All Blacks next month.
Just who joins him in the back-row remains far from clear, with Brumbies duo Rob Valetini and Pete Samu the favourites to complete the back-row.
Press release from Rugby Australia
All Blacks announce new Captain
All Blacks Press Release:
All Blacks loose forward and Chiefs Captain Sam Cane has been named as the new Captain of the All Blacks.
The news was announced on SKY Sport’s The Breakdown show tonight, with Cane succeeding Kieran Read who retired from the All Blacks after Rugby World Cup 2019.
A natural leader, 28-year-old Cane has played 68 Tests, including 48 starts, since making his debut against Ireland in 2012, aged just 20.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said he was delighted to name Cane as the new captain.
“Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a ‘follow me’ type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.
“There’s massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he’s perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future.”
Foster said while the All Blacks’ plans for this year were still being worked through due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was an important role for the captain.
“We wanted to confirm Sam now because he’ll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders,” Foster said.
Cane said it was a “massive honour” to be given the captaincy.
“It’s a pretty exciting challenge really and as I’ve spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I’ve become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team.
“The great thing about the All Blacks is that the leadership group is full of captains and experienced players already, so I’m just really looking forward to working closely with that group and doing my best to lead them and the rest of the squad.”
Cane has already captained the All Blacks on three occasions. He became the 67th Test captain and fifth youngest ever when he captained the team against Namibia at RWC2015 at the age of 23. He also captained the team against Italy in 2016 and against Argentina in Buenos Aires last year.
“My style as captain will be to not really change the way I do things. I’m just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue,” Cane added.
“While we don’t know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I’m looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans.”
Mini biography – Sam Cane
Raised in the small rural Bay of Plenty community of Reporoa, Sam Cane has had an exceptional career since breaking into professional rugby as a teenager. He made his provincial debut for Bay of Plenty in 2010 at just 18 years old and his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs the following year. In 2011, Cane was also part of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side, was the New Zealand Rugby Age Grade Player of the Year and was also nominated for International Age Grade Player award. He helped the Chiefs to the first of their back-to-back Investec Super Rugby titles in 2012 before making his All Blacks debut in June that year aged 20. A devastating tackler and scavenger, he has continued to take his game to new levels in recent seasons. He was co-Captain of the Chiefs for four years taking sole charge this year and has played 116 games for the club. In 2018 Cane fractured his neck during a Test against South Africa and faced months of recovery post-surgery before making a much-anticipated return to the Chiefs in 2019, helping the team through to the Quarter Finals. A Rugby World Cup 2015 champion with the All Blacks, Cane was also part of the RWC2019 squad.
Samuel Jordan Cane
Born: 13 January 1992 in Rotorua
Physical: 1.89m, 106kg
Position: Loose forward
Province: Bay of Plenty
Investec Super Rugby team: Chiefs
Investec Super Rugby appearances: 116
All Blacks Debut: 16 June 2012, vs Ireland in Christchurch, aged 20.
All Blacks Tests: 68 (Three as Captain)
All Blacks Test Points: 65pts (13 tries)
All Black Number: 1113
Wallabies to Play Test in Newcastle
The Wallabies have confirmed that one of their Rugby Championship games will be played in Newcastle this year
It will be the first time that Newcastle has hosted a Rugby Championship game and will be the Wallabies fourth game of the tournament.
Speaking on the decision Rugby Australia’s chief executive Rennie Castle is delighted that the Wallabies will be able to provide the “sports mad” area with a game at the highest level.
“Newcastle is a sports-mad city and the support for both men’s and women’s Rugby is almost second to none across the country. We can’t wait to showcase the Wallabies in one of our strongest Rugby communities and getting out and about in the community to allow locals to get up close and personal with the team. If the support from the region for the Buildcorp Wallaroos Test last year is any guide, the first ever Rugby Championship match is going to be one of the biggest events of the year and will certainly be one of the highlights of our 2020 Test match calendar,” she said.
It is also the first time that the men’s side will have played in Newcastle since 2012 when they lost to Scotland in what was a disaster for the Wallabies.
The team will be hoping that they can put behind them a poor showing at the Rugby World Cup last year when they get back into action and this gives fans in the city something to look forward to as well as the squad.
All Blacks Confirm 2020 Home Fixtures
The All Blacks have announced there six home fixtures next season and the venues that they will take place in
Up first will be the visit of Wales, who will play the All Blacks at Eden Park on July 4th before taking them on again a week later in Wellington. The games will be the new head coaches first in charge, while the opening game will be a stand-out fixture for new Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, who is a former Auckland and North Harbour coach.
It will be Wales’ first visit to New Zealand since 2016 and is a repeat of the bronze final at this year’s Rugby World Cup which the All Blacks won.
Following their double-header with the Welsh the All Blacks will face Scotland on home soil for the first time in 20 years, in a one-off match in Dunedin on July 18th.
Those games lead into the Rugby Championship with the Wallabies first-up at home for the All Blacks at Wellington on August 15th, which will be new Aussie head coach Dave Rennie’s first match against their rivals.
Argentina are the next in town with a match on August 29th at the FMG Stadium Waikato, while the year will be finished up with a hotly anticipated game against the reigning World Cup holders South Africa at Eden Park on September 5th.
Speaking on the announcement NZR Chief Rugby Officer Nigel Cass is looking forward to the fixture list for whoever the new head coach is as they begin a new era of All Blacks rugby.
“Post Rugby World Cup there is always a degree of the unknown. The All Blacks will have a new head coach and some new players and I’m sure New Zealanders can’t wait to again get behind the team. Wales and Australia also have new coaches and will bring a lot of energy. It’s fantastic to have Scotland back in New Zealand after such a long time. Our countries have always had close ties and that’s been particularly true of Dunedin where no doubt the region will be ready to roll out the tartan welcome mat. And, what better finish to the home schedule than a Test against South Africa at Eden Park for the Freedom Cup,” he said.
The All Blacks are expected to announce their newest head coach this month with Steve Hansen’s assistant coach Ian Foster and the Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson thought to be the leading candidates for the position at present.