Rugby: Skipper's challenge - keep still

By Jim Morton, Laine Clark

All eyes will be on Michael Hooper, the youngest Wallabies skipper in 53 years, when he leads Australia for the first time tonight.

But the 22-year-old will particularly feel the glare of coach Ewen McKenzie before kick-off against France in Melbourne.

McKenzie is an ardent admirer of the 29-test flanker, and marvels at his self-management - but only to a point, especially when it comes to respecting the national anthem.

"He has trouble standing still," said McKenzie. "He gets very involved in the psyche of the game.

"I've said to him 'Mate you just have to wiggle your toes, you can't be jumping up and down during the anthems'. There's no disrespect, he's just self-motivated.

"He knows I'm watching. Now we're watching each other at the anthems."

But that focus Hooper has in his preparations is something McKenzie hopes will rub off on his teammates as they build towards next year's World Cup in England.

"The thing that stands out for me is his ability to self-manage and self-organise so he can deliver so consistently," he said.

"If he can spread some of that sort of fairydust among the rest of the team, that will be fantastic."

- AAP

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