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Wallabies stung by shock Hooper withdrawal

The Wallabies will be without captain Michael Hooper for the Rugby Championship opener against Argentina after the skipper informed coach Dave Rennie he’s struggling mentally.

The four-time John Eales Medalist told team officials on Thursday night his “mindset” is not where it should be to lead the team against the Pumas on Sunday morning (5.10am AEST) in Mendoza.

“The 121 Test openside flanker believes he’s not in the mindset to fulfil the responsibility that goes with leading and representing his country at this point in time,” the Wallabies said in a statement on Saturday.

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Centurion prop James Slipper will take over the Wallabies captaincy, and Fraser McReight will come into the team at openside flanker.

“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.

“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.”

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The Wallabies have given him the green light to take as much time as he needs.

Rennie described Hooper’s decision as courageous.

“Michael’s one of the most professional and impressive men I’ve coached (and) I know this has been a difficult decision for him,” Rennie said.

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“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 described Hooper as “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,” Marinos said.

“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.”

If you or anyone you know needs immediate support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or via lifeline.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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