Michael Hooper is set to become the latest member of the test centurions’ club when Australia take on New Zealand in Wellington on Sunday.
In doing so he will become the 12th Wallaby to rack up 100 test appearances. Only the unlikely combination of an injury suffered during Australia’s Rugby World Cup 2019 pool campaign and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have prevented Hooper reaching that milestone in record time.
Hooper, who has captained the Wallabies on 46 of his 99 test appearances, has enjoyed a stellar international career since starring at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2011 in Italy.
We take a look at the five defining moments of the openside’s time in the test arena.
England v Australia, Twickenham, 17 November, 2012
At the end of his first year in international rugby, Hooper put in a performance at Twickenham that left observers in no doubt of his potential. Hooper had made his test debut as a replacement against Scotland in June, before an injury to David Pocock presented an opportunity in the Wallabies’ starting side that took on New Zealand in Auckland in August. But it was in south-west London that the young openside announced himself to the wider world. In the early stages at Twickenham, Hooper took a pass from Nick Phipps and powered through an attempted tackle from Tom Youngs, before accelerating past Charlie Sharples and Tom Johnson, and chucking an offload to Nick Cummins in support. It was a moment that set the tone for an hour of Wallabies dominance. As Australia came under pressure in the final quarter, Hooper showed remarkable commitment in defence and his 14 tackles helped the visitors hold on to record a 20-14 victory.
Ireland v Australia, Aviva Stadium, 16 November, 2013
Hooper returned to the northern hemisphere 12 months later as an established test starter, and scored his first international tries against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. None of his 19 test tries to date will have been as easy as that first one, as the openside profited from Scott Fardy’s deft back-handed offload to run in unopposed. Hooper was sent to the sin-bin eight minutes before half-time, but returned to the action after the break and soon had a second score. Just as the hosts threatened a comeback in Dublin, Australia secured an attacking lineout, and after the pack’s surge towards the line was underlined by a fourth try of the match, it was Hooper who emerged with the ball.
Australia v France, Docklands Stadium, 14 June, 2014
Just two years after making his test debut, Hooper became the youngest player to captain the Wallabies since Ken Catchpole in 1961. The flanker was still only 22 when he led out his country to play France in Melbourne. The Wallabies had beaten Les Bleus 50-23 just seven days previously, but the match at Docklands Stadium proved to be one for the purists with defences on top. The biggest call for Hooper on the day came in the 52nd minute when Australia were awarded a penalty having threatened the French line without piercing it. He pointed to the posts, and it proved a wise choice as Bernard Foley dissected the posts to open the scoring. Nic White added a 65th-minute penalty to seal a 6-0 victory for the hosts, and their new captain. "You've just got to find a way to win, at the end of the day," Hooper said at full-time. "All the good teams do that, and we're on our way to being in that sort of category.”
New Zealand v Australia, Twickenham, 31 October, 2015
The biggest match of Hooper’s 99-test career came back in south-west London as the Wallabies contested the Rugby World Cup 2015 final against New Zealand. Less than three months previously, in Sydney, Hooper had beaten the All Blacks for the first time. On that day, his work alongside David Pocock at the breakdown had proved key, and both would be prominent again at Twickenham. However, despite the best efforts of their twin opensides, Australia struggled to contain the All Blacks early on. Hooper himself was on the receiving end of a particularly strong Conrad Smith tackle in the opening exchanges. He recovered well, and at times it seemed that Hooper and Pocock were repelling New Zealand almost on their own. Two tries in 11 second-half minutes reduced the Wallabies’ deficit to just four points, but the effort exerted in the first hour took its toll as the All Blacks scored 13 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes to win 34-17.
Wales v Australia, Principality Stadium, 11 November, 2017
By the time Australia and Hooper arrived in Cardiff in November, 2017, the flanker was used to scoring international tries. In fact, no Australian forward had crossed the whitewash more times than him. Hooper had matched Rocky Elsom and Jeremy Paul’s haul of 14 tries when he touched down against New Zealand three months earlier. He was also used to beating Wales, having won each of his six encounters with the Welsh heading into that encounter. An action-packed match ensued under the closed Principality Stadium roof, in which Hooper became a record-breaker. With time up at the end of the first half, Hooper received the ball inside the Welsh 22, with Reece Hodge providing an overlap on his right shoulder. Hooper decided against using the winger, instead spotting a half-gap between Gareth Davies and Steff Evans, whose attention had been grabbed by Hodge, to sneak over the line. Hooper remains the most prolific Wallabies forward in history, having increased his tally to 19 in the intervening three years.