Australia series – Dwyer blast serves Hooper well
The fingerprints of Sydney's famous Randwick Rugby Club are all over the upcoming Test series between the Wallabies and England.
Both Michael Cheika and Eddie Jones wore the famous all-green strip while the tourists' recent coaching acquisition, Glen Ella, tore Shute Shield defences to shreds alongside siblings Mark and Gary.
The series may have lost a major drawcard in Randwick's Kurtley Beale; but there will still be one former 'Wicks player on show in Sekope Kepu who returns from overseas under the " Giteau Law”
Then there's Bob Dwyer, who before becoming the first Wallabies coach to win the Rugby World Cup, led Randwick to four Shute Shield titles either side of 1980. He is also responsible for the biggest sledge ahead of what has become the most anticipated June series outside of a British & Irish Lions tour after he unloaded on Waratahs captain and Wallabies No.7 Michael Hooper earlier this season.
Dwyer's comments that Hooper was "the No.5 openside flanker in the country" and a player who'd become a "total non-event" created quite the stir throughout Australian rugby.
Wallabies captain Stephen Moore hit out at Hooper's "poor" treatment in the media following the Brumbies' Super Rugby victory over the Waratahs while NSW coach Daryl Gibson later declared his skipper to be "still the best No.7" in the country.
Michael Hooper scored two tries in Sydney on Friday night. Numbers provided to ESPN by Opta Sports at the time suggested Hooper's form may have been a little down but that he was far from the "total non-event" Dwyer had described. Six weeks on, those comments appear to have been a motivating masterstroke.
Following a period of improving, but steady, efforts, Hooper was sublime against the Chiefs on Friday night. On early inspection, it's easy to get caught up on a scoresheet that has two tries marked next to Hooper's name. Dig a little deeper however, and the true story of his 80-minute effort rings true. For not only will the 10 runs (which led all forwards) for 50 metres, two clean breaks and two defenders beaten have put a smile on Cheika's face but more-so the manner in which they came. Hooper's role at the Wallabies is not to be the chief breakdown pilferer; he is instead selected for his ball-carrying ability, support play and speed..
Unless Cheika has some wildly mischievous scheme up his sleeve, Hooper will be joined in the Wallabies' back-row by David Pocock and Scott Fardy - the same trio that was so central to Australia reaching the World Cup final. They will meet a different England back-row this time around however, with Jones having switched former captain Chris Robshaw to No.6 and promoted James Haskell at openside. Billy Vunipola is the likely No.8.
It's a back-row that's been fortunate to work with Wallabies great George Smith, who coincidentally is a member of the same beachside club where Hooper cut his teeth: Manly Marlins. It's the same George Smith who was recently named the Aviva Premiership's Players' Player. Smith's impact on the England back-row and Wasps team-mate Haskell in particular, should not be underestimated. And nor should Dwyer's comments about Hooper from earlier this year.
For whether you agreed with the former Wallabies coach at the time or saw them as an unfounded, poorly-timed rant, judging by Friday night's performance, it may just have been the motivator Hooper needed.