Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has put pen to paper on an historic five-year deal that will keep the star flanker in Australian Rugby until the end of 2023.
The 26-year old has already amassed 82 Tests, and currently holds the record as the youngest-ever player to reach 100 Super Rugby caps.
Australia’s 82nd Test captain, the Manly junior also became the fifth-youngest player to ever skipper the Wallabies when he led the side out for the first time against France in 2014.
A two-time John Eales Medallist for the Wallabies’ Players’ Player, the five-year commitment from Hooper will see him remain on Australian shores until after the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said: “I never really thought about going elsewhere or entertaining anything like that. I was really keen to stay in Australia, and keep doing what I can for the Wallabies and the Waratahs.
One hour after his five-year contract was announced and Michael Hooper is out doing 50s x plenty to be ready for the Bledisloe. That's why. pic.twitter.com/0M6pCPSPAZ— Iain Payten (@iainpayten) August 10, 2018
“It’s a long deal so I have to thank Cheik (Wallabies coach Michael Cheika) and Raelene (Rugby Australia Chief Executive) as well as the Waratahs for having the belief in me in that I can continue to contribute.
“I love Australian Rugby. I like heading down to Manly Oval to watch club footy in time off, I obviously enjoy getting stuck in at Super Rugby level and then nothing compares to playing Test footy for your country.
“I’m not really into contracts and all that back-and-forward, so to know that I’m sorted through to the next World Cup is really comforting and just means I can throw everything into the Waratahs and Wallabies,” Hooper said.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said: “Michael’s commitment to Rugby in Australia and to the Wallabies is second to none.
“He is a very proud Australian and a great representative of what we want in sport in Australia. He guarantees full commitment and effort every time he plays and he never takes a backward step.
“Every time he has pulled on the green and gold he shows this commitment, and now as captain he’s learning each day and growing into the type of leader that we need in the game.
“I know Michael can see the huge amount of young talent in the game that is coming through at the moment and I am sure it’s a big part of why he would be committing to a long term deal,” Cheika said.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle said: “Michael is the type of person that you want to build your team around. He offers so much both on and off the field and is a fine example to all young Australians.
CONFIRMED: @qantaswallabies captain Michael Hooper has signed a five-year deal with Australian rugby.— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) August 10, 2018
Watch LIVE as the skipper discusses his decision.
WATCH: https://t.co/rXgUP2N7oa pic.twitter.com/cdFqaUUkkx
“He’s come through all of the junior pathways, he’s broken all sorts of records along the way but most importantly, he’s earned the respect of his teammates and the organisations he’s represented.
“The length of the deal will be talked about but it’s fair reward for a player like Michael. He was upfront in signalling that he wanted to commit to Australian Rugby so we couldn’t be more pleased to have him remain until at least 2023,” Castle said.
Always earmarked as a future Test star, Hooper first earned accolades at the 2011 Junior World Championship, where he captained Australia and was also named the Player of the Tournament.
That led to a Test debut in 2012 where he won Wallabies ‘Rookie of the Year’ and polled third in the annual John Eales Medal, despite having played less than half of the polling games.
The awards continued in 2013, when Hooper claimed the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year as well as the Waratahs Players’ Player, in a season where he played every game.
The following year turned out to be a dream season for Hooper as he stood-in as captain of the NSW Waratahs for their inaugural Super Rugby title in the absence of injured skipper David Dennis.
The return of Stephen Moore from injury in 2015 meant that Hooper resumed his service as vice-captain of the Wallabies through the Rugby World Cup and into 2016.
Hooper returned to captain the Wallabies last season after the retirement of Moore and will again lead Australia on their path towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Wallabies will square off against New Zealand at ANZ Stadium next Saturday August 18, in the first of three Bledisloe Cup clashes for 2018.
Michael Hooper: Fact File
Test debut: 2012 v Scotland, Newcastle
Test caps: 82
Test points: 75 (15T)
The World Rugby Hall of Fame presented by Tudor recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to the game of rugby throughout their careers, while also demonstrating rugby’s character-building values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
This year’s inductees will be honoured at a special ceremony in Rugby, England, on 12 September. The ceremony will be held at the state-of-the-art physical home of the Hall of Fame, which celebrates the inspirational journey of the game from its humble origins to its global present, played by millions of men, women and children.
O’Gara, Villepreux, Williams and Burgess will attend the prestigious event, which will celebrate their careers and contributions to the game. Larkham, due to his involvement in The Rugby Championship, will receive his accolade at a special ceremony on 17 August in Sydney, the day before Australia’s Bledisloe Cup opener with New Zealand.
These five inductees bring the total in the Hall of Fame to 142 since it began in 2006.
Congratulation to #Wallabies great Stephen Larkham, who has been inducted into the @WorldRugby Hall of Fame. Well done, Bernie! #GoldBlooded #ClassicWallabies— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) August 10, 2018
READ: https://t.co/3PFCFOvrq9 pic.twitter.com/G5Ebz4sZFd
World Rugby Chairman and Hall of Fame inductee Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Hall of Fame importantly acknowledges and celebrates the true legends of the game, celebrating those who have made outstanding contributions throughout their careers while embodying rugby’s values.
“On behalf of the rugby family we would like to congratulate this year’s five new inductees, Stephen Larkham, Ronan O’Gara, Pierre Villepreux, Byran Williams and Liza Burgess as they are recognised and honoured for their immense contributions to rugby.
“Each have left their mark on the sport and through their achievements and character, inspired millions to play and support rugby worldwide, and we look forward to honouring them in the coming weeks.”
Fellow World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee and Chairman of the Hall of Fame panel John Eales said: “It is an honour to recognise the contribution of our newest inductees who, over different eras, have inspired generations of rugby players and supporters. Through their induction, they represent the many thousands of men and women who have made our game great.”
The 27-year-old, who played for his country in Tests against Georgia, Fiji and Samoa earlier this summer, will arrive at Welford Road from French club Narbonne.
“David comes in with some good experience in Europe, and we think he can continue to make good progress here,” Leicester head coach Matt O’Connor told the club’s official website.
“He is a big, powerful man, and we look forward to getting him to work in the build-up to the new season.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, have added Fiji international prop Campese Ma’afu to their squad ahead of the Gallagher Premiership campaign.
WELCOME TO THE #TIGERSFAMILY 🐯 ... DAVID FEAO!— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) August 7, 2018
Tonga international prop David Feao has joined Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2018/19 season.
Read the official announcement 👉 https://t.co/WiVBnSq6ua pic.twitter.com/BAVIzJ0hnc
Ma’afu, 33, is an injury dispensation signing, with England international Ellis Genge having undergone knee surgery and not expected back in action until early next year.
O’Connor added: “Campese is a very experienced prop with good knowledge of Premiership and European Rugby.
“He comes into a competitive group of front-rowers at the club.”