Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has withdrawn from Australia’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina and will return home due to personal reasons.
The Aussies get their Rugby Championship campaign underway on Sunday morning at 5.10am AEST with a Test match against the Pumas in Mendoza, but Hooper will not feature in the contest.
On Saturday morning, the Australian Rugby Union announced that Hooper had pulled out of the Test due to “mindset” issues.
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“While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time,“ Hooper said in a statement.
“My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don’t feel I am able to fulfil my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset.”
James Slipper will captain the Wallabies in Hooper’s absence, while Fraser McReight will don the No. 7 jersey.
“Michael’s one of the most professional and impressive men I’ve coached I know this has been a difficult decision for him,” Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said.
“He’s shown true courage by acknowledging where he is at and acting on it.
“We will support him in any way we can and I know the team will be focused on getting the job done tomorrow.”
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos added: “Michael is an incredible leader, it takes a brave man to identify where he’s at and come forward whilst having the best interests of the team at heart.
“His wellbeing is and remains the highest priority right now where Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby community will do everything to support him and his family.”
Hooper has represented Australia in 121 Tests since making his international debut in 2012, eventually breaking George Gregan’s record for the most-capped Wallabies captain in history.
The New South Welshman joins a lengthy list of Australian athletes to step away from their sport to focus on their mental wellbeing, including Sydney Swans forward Buddy Franklin and Victorian cricketer Glenn Maxwell.
Stans Sport commentator Nick McArdle tweeted: “Thinking of Michael Hooper this morning and wishing him all the best. Some things are more important than sport.”