Tom Hooper truthers unite. Is he our saviour at six?
The No.6 has long been a problematic position for the Wallabies, and across Australian Super Rugby.
A physical, high work rate jack of all trades who can add mongrel and edge to the pack, do the dirty ruck work, run hard dominant lines and be a threat in the lineout is a difficult proposition to package up in any one player.
Last year, the Brumbies were a blocked droppie away from competing for the title, and it takes more than one ingredient to make a stew, but Tom Hooper’s first half injury certainly dealt a marked blow to the cause.
He makes his long-awaited return off the bench in round 11 against the Rebels and there’s a sizeable contingent of us in the comments hyped to see him, with the tantalising promise that he can lock down the Wallabies ‘No.6 jersey as an X-factor player.
Rob Valetini plays 6 for the Brumbies, but we know him at as an 8, among a handful written in ink on the team sheet for the Wallabies.
Unlike backs, where the slick highlights will give you a good idea of stars, with forwards you’ve got to watch the full game tape to appreciate the grunt work, but here’s a few anyway. In basketball they’ve got the VORP (value over replacement player) statistic, here we’ve got the eye test of what Hooper can bring:
There’s not many than can stop Ardie in his tracks one on one, but Tom brings him to a halt again and again.
More often than not winning the collision and setting up front foot ball.
The conundrum of the Wallabies blindside flanker role right now is too many options with no clear standouts. Jed Holloway, Nick Frost, Seru Uru, RobLeota, Ned Hanigan have all been touted, but to my eye seem to lack the blend that a versatile 6 needs to truly make a formidable and cohesive pack.
This has also magnified weaknesses in the locks and rest of the backrow, whether it’s Will Skelton not being a lineout threat, Holloway not getting enough gain line advantage or Hanigan not hitting rucks for ball security. If Tom Hooper can continue the development he’s started in this run up to Super finals season, I reckon he may just be the 6 that has been promised.
(Word on the street is little brother Lachlan Hooper shows some great promise too. All the power to the Hooper boys to put it together on the field).