Pocock rivalry pushing Hooper to perform

GEORGINA ROBINSON
Last updated 11:42 15/11/2012
Michael Hooper
Getty Images
BATTLE UP FRONT: Michael Hooper has plenty to play for against England, with David Pocock nearing full fitness.

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Michael Hooper says he won't have any trouble firing up in front of his English relatives at Twickenham on Saturday; he will be too busy trying to stay a step ahead of rival and teammate David Pocock.

Hooper has enjoyed a blistering debut season with the Wallabies and will retain the openside spot after Pocock was ruled out of making his return due to a calf strain.

Pocock's misfortune has delayed the outcome of Robbie Deans's most fascinating selection dilemma for a week but gives Hooper another 80 minutes to prove his indispensability to the Wallabies.

Not bad motivation for a test player at the end of one of the most taxing seasons in memory.

''There's two things for me: the shadow of Poey coming back, that's one thing that keeps you excited and keeps the mental side of things up there,'' Hooper said. ''And secondly it is my first spring tour, so I am excited to play as many games at the best stadiums in the world.''

The Wallabies are doing their best to move on from the pain and frustration of their dismal performance against France.

While fans continue to scratch their heads, the players are making sure they are not caught off guard again by an unpredictable England side.

''We've done plenty of analysis and we've found where we went wrong, so now we're just looking forward to putting out a better performance than last week,'' returning prop Ben Alexander said.

''There's some technical issues, there's some mentality issues, so it's an adaption from the southern hemisphere ... the northern hemisphere scrum very well on their own ball. They like to hold it in and force penalties. That's a change we've got to make and England are no different. You look at how they scrummed on their ball against South Africa [in midyear], they were very dominant.''

Hooper was a rare bright spot in the Stade de France match and hopes to improve on his performance in front of his parents and his English extended family.

''It's just consistency, we had good phases on the field and we had bad. It is just being able to make sure we can put out an 80-minute performance, which we are all capable of, and I think the result will come,'' he said.

Alexander said the forwards were feeling the pressure around their set-piece play but were accustomed to it.

''There's always pressure, every game,'' he said. ''The scrum's a big part of the game, you have to get it right every scrum, especially with good sides with good scrums.''

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The Brumbies forward paid tribute to his former teammate, Hooper, who is a relative unknown in England.

''He's an absolute dog, just goes 100 mile an hour in everything he does,'' he said. ''I love playing with him, with that fire he's got and that aggression. He's not the biggest bloke but he's got one of the biggest tickers.''

Again, the Wallabies have their backs to the wall. It is becoming their default position.''We weren't good enough [in France],'' Alexander said. ''That hurts and it spurs blokes on.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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