Wales captain Michael Hooper has pulled out of Sunday’s (AEST) Rugby Championship opener against Argentina due to “mental” issues.
The 121-Test veteran pulled out of the Test after the squad was announced on Friday morning, before a statement from Rugby Australia confirmed his withdrawal on Saturday morning.
“While this decision did not come easily, I know it was the right decision for me and the team at this time,” Hooper said in a statement.
“I’ve spent my whole career wanting to put the team first and I don’t feel like I can fulfill my responsibilities in my current mindset.”
Long-touted as Hooper’s heir apparent, Fraser McCreight has been called up for the 23rd season and will wear the No.7 jersey.
James Slipper, who led the team against Wales last November in Hooper’s absence (injury), will once again lead the Welshmen.
Wallis coach Dave Rennie will address the media on Saturday morning but said in a statement that Australia’s senior captain had shown “courage” in sidelining him.
“Michael is one of the most professional and amazing people I’ve ever coached, and I know this decision is difficult for him,” he said.
“He has shown real courage by believing in his position and putting it into action.
“We will support in any way we can and I know the team will focus on completing the task tomorrow.”
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos added: “Michael is an incredible leader, it takes someone with the courage to know where he is and have the best interests of the team at heart.
“His safety is Rugby Australia and the Australian rugby community’s highest priority at this time as they do everything they can to support him and his family.”
Hooper in 2011.
Three successive coaches have made Hooper captain, with Ewen McKenzie turning to the Northern Beaches in 2014. Michael Cheka then entrusted Hooper with the captaincy when Stephen Moore retired in 2017.
In the year They chose to retain Renee Hooper as captain in 2020.
Hooper has since gone on to break George Gregan’s record as the most senior captain of the Walsalls.