SYDNEY, Australia - Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has been forced out of his side's Rugby Championship clash with Argentina after re-injuring his problematic hamstring and been replaced as skipper by David Pocock for the match on the Gold Coast.
Flanker Hooper only recently recovered from a serious hamstring strain sustained during the test series against Ireland in June which sidelined him for two months. "He's pulled up a bit sore from training," Pocock told reporters on Friday. "He's been managed right through the whole session yesterday but I think the medical staff just felt like he wasn't quite ready to go."
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika downplayed the injury in an earlier statement, saying the team was being careful and that Hooper would have a week off. The injury is the latest in a rash of late withdrawals that blighted the Wallabies' preparations against South Africa last week before the home side dug deep to win 23-18 in Brisbane.
Pocock was ruled out against the Springboks with a neck injury, along with fullback Israel Folau (ankle) and Adam Coleman (family reasons). All three are back in the matchday squad for the Pumas, with Pocock leading the Wallabies for the first time since their victory in a thriller over France in 2016.
Pocock will switch to Hooper's openside flanker position, with Pete Samu coming into the starting lineup at the back of the scrum for Saturday's clash. Ned Hanigan moves onto the bench to cover the loose forwards. Pocock played a big role in the win in Paris and said it was a "huge honour" to lead the team.
"I wouldn't call it a burden," he said. "One of the things we've been working on as a group is having a number of senior players stepping up and supporting Hoops. And now you expect them to step up even more."
Having opened the tournament with back-to-back thrashings by the All Blacks, the Wallabies are keen to build on the momentum of the Springboks win but are wary of the challenge the Mario Ledesma-coached Pumas bring. Argentina lost 46-24 away to the All Blacks in Nelson last week but impressed the world champions with their dynamic play.
"They're a team that can really grind it out and then they can also turn it on in counterattack, so they're a dangerous team," Pocock said. "We're certainly going into the game knowing we have to be at our best in defence, right from the start."
Australia team: 15-Dane Haylett-Petty, 14-Israel Folau, 13-Reece Hodge, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Will Genia, 8-Pete Samu, 7-David Pocock (captain), 6-Lukhan Tui, 5-Izack Rodda, 4-Rory Arnold, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Scott Sio. Replacements: 16-Folau Faingaa, 17-Sekope Kepu, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Adam Coleman, 20-Ned Hanigan, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Bernard Foley, 23-Jack Maddocks.Reuters