Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has withdrawn from tonight's Rugby Championship clash against Argentina, citing mental health issues as the reason.
It comes as a particularly big shock to the Aussie team considering Hooper's stature within the squad and his remarkable record of 121 international caps at just 30 years of age.
He released the following statement earlier:
While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time.
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.”
Michael Hooper Withdraws From Wallabies Squad
Naturally, his squad and Rugby AU have backed Michael Hooper, in what was clearly a brave and difficult decision for him to make.
"Michael’s one of the most professional and impressive men I’ve coached I know this has been a difficult decision for him," said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.
“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 CEO Andy Marino also issued a statement: "Michael is 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.
"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.”
Fans and media personalities have taken to social media to show their support for Hooper's decision.
Michael Hooper's openness today has hit me harder than I would expect that kind of statement to. As someone who is going through a deep and dark struggle with depression, I'm struggling to put into words what it means.
— Linebreak Rugby 🏳️⚧️🚂✊ (@LinebreakRugby) August 6, 2022
If only the world had more people like Michael Hooper.
— Squidge Rugby (@SquidgeRugby) August 5, 2022
Astounding. Immense respect for this. One of the most tenacious, ‘hardest’ men in the game taking time to get in the right headspace. Mental health matters. Mental health *is* physical health. https://t.co/dnNbbo0PL9
— A-P (@rugby_ap) August 5, 2022
Argentina vs Australia kick-off tonight at 20:10 and will be live on Sky Sports action from 20:00.