Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

England look to nullify Hooper

England assistant coach Graham Rowntree says Australia captain Michael Hooper will receive "special attention" in Saturday's QBE International at Twickenham.

Hooper has been outstanding for the Wallabies since winning the first of his 41 caps in June 2012 with his ball-carrying, breakdown threat and work-rate identifying him as probably the sport's best openside.

Rowntree believes one of the ways of restricting Australia's vast array of attacking talent is by shackling their 23-year-old flanker.

"Hooper needs special attention. We have to nullify him at the weekend and keep him quiet," Rowntree said.

"He's a jack-in-the-box, he's everywhere. His line speed and energy are superb and he's durable as well because he doesn't miss many minutes.

"He's pretty central to everything Australia do offensively - and at the breakdown as well."

The breakdown will be a key battleground in Saturday's climax to the autumn with England desperate to cut off the supply of quick ball to Australia's gifted backline, while supplying their own threequarters with the possession to cause damage.

Rowntree insists the Red Rose's speed in this department will be critical.

"You want clean ball at your breakdown. We work on ball speed every day," he said.

"We've got to go under four and a half seconds for ours and anything over that that we can give them, the better. We work on that constantly.

"Ball speed's important. If we can get that ball speed down to under four seconds then we're in business.

"Historically against Australia we are under four seconds. You'd be surprised how quick the ball is that we get against the All Blacks and how we can slow their breakdown down as well.

"Between four and five seconds is acceptable. If it's between four and six, then we've got problems. It doesn't sound much, but it's a big difference."


From Belfast Telegraph