Michael Hooper says he’s more prepared for his second coming as Wallabies skipper, even if it’s only temporary.
Hooper will lead Australia out on to AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon against Fiji almost three years after he was first handed the role as a 22-year-old.
Then he replaced Stephen Moore because of a serious knee injury but this time the veteran hooker has been relegated to the bench through form.
While proud to get another opportunity, Hooper said Moore was still the Wallabies captain and he would happily hand the title back.
“Steve is the captain of this team and he has done a great job for the last couple of years and will continue to do a great job so I’m super keen to keep learning off him,” Hooper said.
“I’m very proud to lead the team and if that takes a bit of weight off Steve’s shoulders then great, and when he steps back into the role I will be there to support him.”
Hooper was forced to lead the Wallabies through a period of turmoil in 2014 when teammate Kurtley Beale was involved in a texting scandal with team official Di Patston, which ultimately led to the resignation of coach Ewen McKenzie.
Also the Waratahs skipper, Hooper felt it was his making as a captain.
“I wouldn’t change anything from then,” the 25-year-old flanker said.
“I always understood the privilege that it was but if I look at myself then, I was young and it was tough but that’s why I wouldn’t change it because I did learn a lot.
“I probably aged 20 years in that time but you’re sometimes put in these positions and you do the best you can I believe I did that.”
Moore was confirmed on the bench following the final training session at AAMI Park, while two other players were named to make a possible Test debut in baby-faced Brumbies halfback Joe Powell and Namibian-born, Perth-raised backrower Richard Hardwick.
With code-hopping inside centre Karmichael Hunt and blindside flanker Ned Hanigan named in the starting side, that means four players could earn their first Test caps.
Hooper said the team had been working hard in the few days they had had together to bed down their plays and patterns, predicting Fiji to be a formidable opponent in the forwards as well as the trade-mark razzle-dazzle from their backs.
“Last time we played them in Wales at the World Cup in 2015 it was a really tough hit-out,” he said.
“They’re obviously big guys who can run and tackle but the challenge at the set piece was definitely up there.
“It will be a big focus for us tomorrow, to try to get our set piece on the front foot in all facets.”