New Australia captain Michael Hooper is relishing the chance to face off against France skipper and fellow openside flanker Thierry Dusautoir in the second Test as the Wallabies seek to seal the three-match series in Melbourne.
Named vice captain with seasoned back Adam Ashley-Cooper before the series, Hooper was promoted after Stephen Moore’s reign lasted barely a minute before the hooker suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 50-23 win in Brisbane.
We're aware of the challenge they bring and Dusautoir is obviously the leader of that pack and will be at the forefront and I'm sure bring a lot of passion.
France will also have a second captain in two weeks, with Dusautoir taking the armband off prop Nicolas Mas after being rested as he recovers from a bicep injury.
Australia’s youngest captain for decades, 22-year-old Hooper will concede 10 years and some 36 caps to Dusautoir, but suggested he would not take a backward step against the seasoned flanker.
“We’re aware of the challenge they bring and Dusautoir is obviously the leader of that pack and will be at the forefront and I’m sure bring a lot of passion,” Hooper told reporters in Melbourne.
Hooper typically tenacious
Long touted as a future Wallabies skipper, Hooper had his first taste of captaincy at Lang Park last week and was typically tenacious at the breakdown, allowing the Wallabies backs quick turnover of the ball in the seven tries-to-two rout.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre axed two-thirds of his starting side at Brisbane, introducing a raft of players who arrived late for the tour after contesting the French club final.
Les Bleus players have queued up to pledge a far more spirited effort in Melbourne, and Dusautoir’s leadership will be key to France’s hopes of forcing a series-decider in Sydney next week.
“I really suffered with my guys last week,” the 32-year-old said. “We have to improve on many points… To defeat the Wallabies we have to be perfect (in many areas).”