Outstanding rookie Michael Hooper is confident he and returning fellow openside breakaway David Pocock can combine successfully in the Wallabies' starting team on the tour to Europe.
The 21-year-old was so impressive when starting Australia's past six Tests after Pocock suffered a serious knee injury in the opening Rugby Championship match against New Zealand that he is a strong contender to win the John Eales Medal on Thursday night.
But he could find his playing time restricted on the four-Test Europe tour starting next week, with the return of Pocock - widely rated with All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw in the world's top two at openside breakaway.
''I'd love to keep playing; once you get a taste you obviously want more,'' Hooper said on Wednesday as the Wallabies tour squad assembled in Sydney. ''I'd love to play with 'Poey' [Pocock]. He's obviously a great player, and I think we both offer different aspects and we could work together.''
Hooper said he hadn't had any discussions with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans about a possible change of back-row position, although he came off the bench and played mostly at blindside breakaway next to Pocock in Tests against Scotland and Wales earlier this year. It's clearly the start of another fierce rivalry for the Wallabies No. 7 shirt, last seen between George Smith and Phil Waugh.
Hooper was flattered to be spruiked for the John Eales Medal, the Wallabies player of the year, but could face competition from Pocock there as well.