Hooper quits as Waratahs skipper on eve of season
Michael Hooper has dropped a bombshell by relinquishing the Waratahs captaincy just over a week out from their opening-round Super Rugby clash.
His place as Wallabies skipper is also in extreme doubt with Hooper due to meet new Australian coach Dave Rennie on Wednesday.
Rob Simmons has replaced Hooper as Waratahs captain, ahead of their final pre-season trial against the Queensland Reds on Friday.
If Hooper steps down as Wallabies skipper it will continue the fallout from Australia's disastrous World Cup campaign.
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Since the Wallabies were dumped out of the rugby showpiece by England in the quarter-finals last October they have lost coach Michael Cheika and now the skipper has stepped down.
Hooper took over the captaincy from Stephen Moore in 2014, making him, at 22, the youngest Wallabies skipper since 21-year-old Ken Catchpole in 1961.
Simmons, who has 145 Super Rugby caps, becomes the 172nd captain of the Waratahs in their 146-year history.
"It's been on my mind for a good 18 months," Hooper said of his decision.
"It's been an honour to represent New South Wales as a player alone, but the opportunity to lead a fantastic group of men over the journey to date has been a humbling experience.
"It's a role that I've thoroughly enjoyed, but I feel that the time is right for someone like Rob to lead this group in the season ahead.
"Someone of his quality and character both on and off the field, leading this young team around will be extremely valuable moving forward - he has the full support of myself and the wider leadership team in building a culture we feel will bring NSW success in Super Rugby."
After a decade with the Reds, Simmons joined the Waratahs in 2018 and quickly ascended into the leadership group.
"It's a proud moment for me and my family, to be named captain of an organisation that has such a profound place in Australian rugby history is really special," Simmons said.
"The significance of being selected by my teammates as their leader in 2020 is certainly not lost on me and it's been an extremely humbling experience as we approach the new season."