Michael Hooper adds little spice to the Crusade
RICHARD KNOWLER IN SYDNEY
A no-show by Waratahs captain Michael Hooper for a photo session has cranked-up the tension with the Crusaders ahead of tomorrow night's Super Rugby final.
The Waratahs had requested Crusaders skipper Kieran Read remain at ANZ Stadium, where the final will be staged, after their captain's run to allow photographers and TV crews to capture images of him and Hooper posing with the trophy.
Hooper never arrived at the allocated time for promotion. After waiting for around 20 minutes Read, who posed for pictures on his own, departed the stadium at Olympic Park.
A Crusaders spokesperson said Read had to attend a team function and couldn't wait any longer.
"We are not trying to play any tricky games here. It was just we couldn't have Reado running late because he had a team function to attend.
"If we had all day to wait, then it would have been okay. He would have waited.''
Hooper arrived an hour late. Read had already left and posed for photographers on his own.
A Waratahs spokesman said Hooper was late because their final training, which was held at the Sydney Football Stadium in Moore Park, went for longer than expected.
"It couldn't be helped. It was just unfortunate we were late and unfortunate the Crusaders couldn't wait. It was just one of those things. We eventually got the shot (photograph).''
The spokesman said Hooper's late arrival was not a ploy to wind-up the Crusaders.
It is understood the Waratahs had earlier asked the Crusaders if the photograph could be taken in front of the Sydney Opera House but the New Zealanders, who are staying at Olympic Park, requested it be done at ANZ Stadium.
Before big matches teams like to use anything they can for extra motivation and Read is unlikely to have been impressed by Hooper's tardiness.
This could provide extra ammunition during the pre-match speeches.
The Crusaders held their captain's run at the stadium under bright sunshine with senior players Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Andy Ellis and Read all taking to turns to issue messages during their group huddles.
After the Waratahs training coach Michael Cheika said he was keen for his forwards to prove to the New Zealanders they were not the soft underbelly some thought they might be.
Hooper emphasised his pack were up for the clash before leaving for ANZ Stadium.
"I'm hoping everyone's nervous because there's obviously a great opportunity on the line and nerves bring out the best in people,'' Hooper told media.
"Their whole back row (Read, McCaw and Matt Todd) is capable of messing us up at the breakdown. We've got to be on our toes there and be really good.
"We play an attacking game and it's an area we need to be sharp at in order to get points on the board tomorrow night otherwise it could be a hard night for us.
"Richie's obviously class there, Matt Todd's great. It's going to be a tough night if we let them be really good there at the breakdown."
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