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George Gregan and Michael Hooper agree Wallabies can win World Cup

The ambassadors: Wallabies forward Michael Hooper, the newest Test captain, gets some tips from retired halfback George Gregan, the most-capped leader of the national team. The ambassadors: Wallabies forward Michael Hooper, the newest Test captain, gets some tips from retired halfback George Gregan, the most-capped leader of the national team.
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The ambassadors: Wallabies forward Michael Hooper, the newest Test captain, gets some tips from retired halfback George Gregan, the most-capped leader of the national team.

The ambassadors: Wallabies forward Michael Hooper, the newest Test captain, gets some tips from retired halfback George Gregan, the most-capped leader of the national team.

LONDON: Wallabies great George Gregan and captain Michael Hooper are united in the belief Australia can win the World Cup in England next year.

But Gregan, the most capped player in Australian history, has warned the new Michael Cheika regime there’s “no magic dust” for the team’s lofty ambitions.

The Wallabies play England at Twickenham in a warm-up to the World Cup showdown between the teams at the same venue in less than a year.

A loss would see the Wallabies slump to their worst spring tour record in nine years.

“But playing England is just another step, beating them now is not the be all and end all,” Gregan said.

“Results are important and you want to finish the tour on a good note. A lot of teams have a strong respect for the Wallabies.

“There’s no magic dust or magic formula in winning consistently, it’s hard. But if you can get that winning feeling, the World Cup is a different animal and it’s anyone’s.”

Hooper and Gregan met in London this week as part of their roles as HSBC Rugby ambassadors.

Hooper has been thrust into the Wallabies’ captaincy job with Stephen Moore out injured and is a contender to keep the leadership role for the tournament next year.

Most experts have already dismissed the Wallabies chances of lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy next year.

They’ve won just one Test since Cheika took over from Ewen McKenzie last month and losing to England would equal the touring team of 2005 as the worst European trip in the past decade.

Hooper has unwavering confidence in the team’s ability to turn its fortunes around and challenge New Zealand as the best team in the world.

“Yes [we can win the World Cup], the players are there, the talent pool is amazing and we’ve still got guys to add in to boost our team,” Hooper said.

“Everyone gets right for a World Cup year. From what I’ve seen in this group and the camaraderie, we are moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Wallabies have lost the past two games by a combined six points. They also drew with New Zealand in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney and went within seconds of beating the world champion All Blacks in Brisbane.

So what needs to change to be a genuine threat at the World Cup?

“The next step is turning those tight Test matches into wins … there are positive signs. Winning helps everything, it builds confidence and reinforces the work,” Gregan said.

“I think historically Australian teams do well going into World Cups being underdogs. That’s on the horizon.

“They keep knocking on the door, they will turn the corner. Hopefully that’s this weekend and it’s an emphatic statement of the team they want to be. Then you can build on that.”

Hooper is trying to help Cheika lead an Australian rugby revival. Gregan and former skipper Nathan Sharpe have offered helping hands to assist with Hooper’s steep learning curve.

The clash against England will end a brutal 18 months in the life of the Wallabies, with the team now on its third coach and the players have dealt with controversy.

Hooper, 23, is the youngest Wallabies captain since 1961 and has been lumped with increased responsibility on and off the field.

He has shown poise beyond his years, promising to learn from the way the Kurtley Beale text message drama was handled and “testing times” to become a stronger leader.

The Waratahs flanker came under fire after the Beale saga and Wallabies supporters have been divided after tumultuous times.

The Wallabies could have five Test captains – Hooper, Moore, James Horwill, Will Genia and David Pocock – in their World Cup squad.

Gregan played 139 Tests for Australia and is the Wallabies’ most capped captain.

“I think you’re always learning as a captain, Hoops is young and [New Zealand’s] Richie McCaw was a young captain,” Gregan said.

“You go through some tough times and you’ve got to drive relentless teamwork. It’s not easy, you’re always asking how can we do things better?

“Hoops leads by example on the field, he doesn’t talk much. There’s no magic formula, you learn from the good and the bad. Really strong teams have a number of leaders, that’s what the Wallabies will have next year.”

The Wallabies have experienced the highs of a clean-sweep series win against France in June to the lows of seeing their coach quit.

“You’ve got to get guys switched on … there are all these different variables that guys experience,” Hooper said.

“You’ve got to be on, the expectation is there that you’re in this position as a Wallaby and you’ve got to be on. Yes the results haven’t reflected that but we want an increase in our performances.

“We weren’t as prepared to get on the field each day [before] as players, that’s a bad reflection on us. Minimising that is crucial and we’ve done that this trip.”

Cheika is trying to implement a new game plan and the transition has led to on-field mistakes and lapses.

Cheika had just three days to prepare for the Wallabies tour after being appointed as McKenzie’s replacement.

He will juggle Super Rugby duties with the NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies’ World Cup preparations next year.

But Gregan backed Cheika to handle both jobs with aplomb and lead Australia’s charge to the top of the world.

“Under the circumstances you see they’re making changes … yeah, there are glitches, you can’t change it straight away,” Gregan said.

“More importantly … the attitude you can see in the team is a reflection of him – win, lose or draw, you’re in for a fight. If the Wallabies are 17-0 down they’ll come back, that’s a reflection of Michael Cheika.”

Hooper said the team’s biggest challenge was consistency and he said brutal honesty was a hallmark of the new era.

“You can’t reinvent the wheel totally, we know consistency is big and we need to get a good identity about the team,” Hooper said.

“It’s one thing to say you’re all mates. But that’s not good enough. You have to be honest with each other on the field and know it’s not a personal attack, it’s constructive criticism.

“We’ve gotten better at that on this trip. The main change that’s happened culturally is the want to work hard.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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