New Zealand v Australia, Bledisloe Cup
Michael Hooper hails Kieran Read
October 16, 2013
Wallabies must be 'tidy' in Dunedin, Michael Hooper says%]
That's not to diminish the career's work of McCaw, but he's in his twilight and Read is a man in his prime. Performances throughout The Rugby Championship suggest Read has surpassed McCaw as the most influential player in New Zealand rugby. And if you're the best All Blacks player, you're never far away from being the best player in the world.
Read was Man of the Match in the All Blacks' epic 38-27 win over South Africa, regarded as one of the highest-quality Tests in recent memory. Consistency has long been a hallmark of Read's game, but his performance at Ellis Park emphasised the No.8's ability to produce in the big moments.
Wallabies' No.7 Hooper noted that game when he answered a routine question ahead of Saturday night's third Bledisloe Cup clash in Dunedin about pitting himself against McCaw, the immortal All Blacks openside flanker. He said that McCaw now had an equal in the All Blacks' pack.
"They're both in the same sort of category in terms of what they can do to us and the confidence they bring to the players around them," Hooper said of the two back-rowers. "That's one of the main things. You know if they're going backwards, we're doing a good thing."
With blindside flanker Scott Fardy out of the Wallabies' side to face New Zealand, Hooper's work rate at the breakdown is set to increase. Australia's best forward throughout The Rugby Championship said that Read, and containing him, would feature heavily in the Wallabies' game plan.
"We've got to shut him down, it's that simple," Hooper said. "Last year and this year, the steps he's taken have been incredible and he's really come onto my radar as a great player. His running game is one of his great attributes. Out wide, he can really attack those wide channels and we've got to look to nullify that."
Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between New Zealand and Australia on Saturday, October 19 from 7pm (NZDT), 5pm (AEDT) and 6am (GMT)