September 14, 2019 / 7:20 AM / a month ago

Rugby-Australia captain Hooper would welcome 'Pooper' 2.0 at World Cup

TOKYO, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Australia captain Michael Hooper has said he would welcome the chance to revive his back row partnership with David Pocock at the World Cup, having been impressed with his fellow openside flanker’s return to test rugby against Samoa.

Cheika had Hooper and Pocock operating as twin opensides at the World Cup in England four years ago, a ploy dubbed the “Pooper” combination which proved successful during the Wallabies’ run to the final.

The coach has played Hooper alongside a conventional number eight in rookie Isi Naisarani, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto on the blindside during the Rugby Championship but Pocock’s return from injury has thrown up a selection conundrum.

Hooper said there were benefits whichever way selectors went but felt he and Pocock could add a lot of value if paired together again.

“Dave and I have played a lot together but I think we can improve, in that combination,” he told reporters at a media conference at the Wallabies’ base in Odawara, Japan.

“I think there’s still some more there to get out of games and hopefully we’ll have some games to do that.”

Pocock missed most of the 2019 season with a troubling calf injury but emerged unscathed from the final warmup against Samoa in Sydney a week ago.

Hooper was rested for the game but was an impressed onlooker as stand-in captain Pocock started in the number seven shirt and led the Wallabies to a 34-15 win.

“He didn’t look like he missed a trick,” Hooper said.

“I think as expected ... he’s come off long breaks before and just come back and done outstanding.

“He keeps himself in such outstanding condition. I was impressed and I only expect him to go up.

“These are the competitions where he does so well. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can put out there.”

Australia open their tournament in Japan against Pool D rivals Fiji in Sapporo on Sept. 21.

Salakaia-Loto said there were compelling reasons to unleash both Pocock and Hooper in the back row at the same time.

“They’re two world-class players so you try to have as many of those guys on the field as possible, so I think most of the people would answer the same way,” he said. (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne Editing by Robert Birsel)

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