Australia skipper Hooper to play abroad for six months in 2021

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - Australia Captain's Run - Oita Stadium, Japan - October 18, 2019 Australia's Michael Hooper during Captain's Run. REUTERS/Edgar Su

(Reuters) - Australian captain Michael Hooper will play overseas for the first six months of 2021 and miss most of the Super Rugby season for New South Wales Waratahs next year, Rugby Australia (RA) and the New South Wales Rugby Union said on Wednesday.

Multiple media reports said that the Wallabies flanker is expected play in Japan next year. RA said that he would return to Australia for their 2021 test calendar.

A set number of current players will be granted six-month releases from their contracts after the Rugby Union Players Association and RA signed an interim pay deal in April due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is a great opportunity for me to learn in a new rugby environment and develop a different perspective on the game," Hooper, who has been capped 99 times by Australia, said in a statement here.

“I’m really excited in the direction of Rugby in Australia both at a Super Rugby level and at the Wallabies too under Dave (Rennie).”

RA interim chief executive Rob Clarke said the governing body was “incredibly supportive” of Hooper’s move.

“It’s a prudent decision, especially for someone who has been a devoted servant to the domestic game here in Australia for over 10 years now,” Clarke said.

“While he will head overseas for the first six months of next year, Michael has made it abundantly clear how committed he is to Australian Rugby until at least the Rugby World Cup in 2023.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar