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Hooper and McCaw set for showdown

Friday, August 15, 2014

Update: 7:26PM All Blacks captain Richie McCaw remains a monumental influence according to his Wallabies counterpart, but Michael Hooper is no longer certain the champion No.7 is the world rugby's benchmark openside flanker.

Despite offering a glowing assessment of McCaw's worth and dismissing talk that the 33-year-old is on the wane, Hooper's refusal to rank the three-time world player of the year as still the best at his job sets up a must-see head-to-head showdown at ANZ Stadium.

Hooper, 22, will be searching for his first-ever victory over the All Blacks on Saturday night and his battle at the breakdown with McCaw will be a key determining factor in the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener.

"I've played him a couple of times now and he's still right up there as a tough competitor," Hooper said on Friday.

"There's no chance he's a spent force. The amount he'll bring to the All Blacks jersey and the guys around him would be monumental."

But when asked if McCaw remained the benchmark openside flanker in the game, Hooper admitted "it's hard to say".

"I think every (number) seven plays a different game," said Hooper, himself challenging for the mantle as rugby's premier No.7.

"I play a different game, Richie would play a different game to guys in the past, like a 'Poey' (David Pocock) or a George Smith, so everyone brings different things to the table.

"He's very good at disrupting opposition ball and (he has) his physical presence on the ball.

"His biggest, thing, however is what he would bring to an All Blacks jersey and the team around him."

Australia's youngest Wallabies captain in 53 years, Hooper doubts that McCaw's concession of the penalty that allowed Bernard Foley to boot the Waratahs to victory over the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final two weeks ago will be motivating the veteran back-rower.

"I think Richie's a good enough player to be thinking about the task ahead and not be dwelling on previous things," he said.

Despite the hype around their match-up, Hooper said it would take a massive all-round effort from the Wallabies to stop the world champions.

"If you've got 15 guys doing that, thinking about themselves and completing their roles really well," Hooper said. "Then we're going to be in for a good night."

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