Under siege Wallabies coach Eddie Jones and sacked former captain Michael Hooper are on a collision course for an awkward reunion ahead of Wales vs Barbarians on November 4.
This week Jones launched a bizarre defense, defending his decision to exclude Michael Hooper, an experienced 125-game Wallabies player, from the Rugby World Cup squad, citing concerns about his role model status.
Instead, Jones chose a young, less experienced squad for the tournament with only seven players aged 30 or older.
Unfortunately, that strategy backfired when the Wallabies were eliminated in the early stages of the tournament, raising questions about whether the presence of veterans like Hooper, Quade Cooper or Bernard Foley could have provided valuable composure in difficult moments.
Jones famously left veterans Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley out of his World Cup squad because they were “not good role models”.
Hooper will reunite with Jones when the Barbarians face Wales later this week
Now Hooper is one of five Australian players selected for the Barbarians, alongside Taniela Tupou, Rob Leota, Angus Bell and Rob Valentini.
Jones will also be involved, coming into the Barbarians camp to support coach Scott Robertson, who is set to take over as All Blacks coach from Ian Foster in 2024.
While the two will no doubt chat privately in camp, Jones is not publicly backing down on his decision to leave Hooper out of the World Cup squad.
“The situation reminded me of the time Wayne Bennett let Wally Lewis go.”
“Nobody could quite understand why, but Wally Lewis wasn’t a great role model for the rest of the team.”
“And I don’t think those guys were the right role models for the team’s future.”
“Do not get me wrong. They are not villains.
“But you need people – especially when you have a team like Australia at the moment – you need people who are obsessed with winning, obsessed with being good and these three have been through that phase.”
The Wallabies had a disastrous World Cup and were eliminated in the group stages for the first time
Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons criticized Jones over his comments about Hooper and defended the former Australian captain
Former Wallaby and Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons challenged Jones over his claims that Hooper was not a good role model.
“I stand by it 100 percent,” Jones insisted.
“He’s a great guy, but the timing isn’t right for him.”
FitzSimons defended Hooper in his column, saying they didn’t do much better as role models.
“Hooper played 118 Tests and over the last 10 years has been our answer to what Allan Border was to Australian cricket in the 1980s,” he wrote.
“Hooper was the youngest Wallaby captain since Ken Catchpole, won the John Eales Medal four times and had a career free of controversy.”
“He’s a great Australian rugby player – and as a model of play and behavior you can’t do better.” He deserved a much better end to his rugby career.