Criticism of Wallabies captain Michael Hooper unjustified, Stephen Moore says

Former Wallabies captain Stephen Moore has come out in fierce defence of current skipper Michael Hooper after the Australian No. 7 was the subject of stinging criticism following the 15-all draw with Argentina last weekend.

Hooper was heavily criticized for his decision not to take four shots at a penalty goal and instead push for a try that may have killed of the Pumas' dogged resistance during the dour Tri-Nations contest at McDonald Jones Stadium.

But each time the Wallabies kicked deep into Argentine territory they either made a hash of the lineout, or were brought undone by other mistakes of their own doing or the Pumas' determined breakdown pressure.

It is not the first time Hooper's decision-making in pressure moments has been called into question, but Moore, who handed the role over to Hooper fulltime in 2017, said all a captain could do in that situation was to trust your instincts.

"When you're the captain, you take the heat and that goes with the territory and he'll be aware of all that," Moore told ESPN. "I personally don't agree with the criticism; I think he's done a really good job as captain.

"You do what you think is best on-field and you back yourself, and he's always done that."

One particularly stinging criticism of Hooper suggested his time as Wallabies skipper was up, particularly with the 104-Test veteran heading off for a six-month playing stint in Japan next year.

Hooper will only miss next year's Super Rugby AU season, and the crossover games against New Zealand's five teams, before returning for what is likely to be a three-Test showdown with France.

But there are some who believe coach Dave Rennie would be wise to freshen things up as the team, later next year, starts its two-year countdown to the World Cup in France, particularly with Hooper only boasting 20 wins from 51 Tests as captain.

But Moore isn't one of them, the former Brumbies and Reds rake pointing to the obvious problem of there being the lack of a genuine successor and that Hooper still leads incredibly well by the way he goes about his own game on the field.

"We talk about players who play at or near their best every week, if there's any player who does that it's Hoops and he's been like that his whole career," Moore told ESPN.

"And you've got to remember, too, that Pocock retired last year and he's one of the greatest back-rowers we've ever had, he hasn't got Pocock there and a bunch of other players have moved on.

"Throughout his career, and particularly his time as captain, he's had a lot of change and transition, so I think it's unfair to level criticism around Hoops and his captaincy. And certainly I feel his performances have been as consistent as ever, particularly the games in New Zealand, I thought he played really well.

"What I think we need to spend more time talking about is the leadership group and who are the half-dozen players around him that are going to form the base and the real foundation of the team going forward. And that's not something we've easily been able to answer over the last five or so years.

"So we need to build people up around Hoops, he takes on a lot of stuff off the field, and it becomes obvious then who your next leader becomes. And I've mentioned it before, I don't think in the past we've done a great job of developing leadership within our teams and we can do a lot better at that. So without knowing too much about what's going on [within the Wallabies], I do hope that's happening."

What there can be no debate about is that deserves his lucrative six-month playing stint in Japan, which he and several other senior Wallabies negotiated as part of the salary cuts the Australian professional cohort agreed to with Rugby Australia to help see the code through the financial crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wallabies captain has had to carry an incredible workload, particularly over the last two years when the Israel Folau saga divided the squad and then serving as part of the Rugby Union Players Association and its pay talks with RA.

Moore agreed the stint in Japan's Top League would be hugely beneficial for Hooper.

"Yeah, I think he's earned the right to make a decision like that," Moore said. "And I think we've seen players around the world now doing the same; [Brodie] Retallick is not playing for New Zealand at the moment; Beauden Barrett is heading off to [Japan] for a stint and Dan Carter did it; so he's absolutely earned the right to do that and I think it will be good for his footy and good for him as well.

"It's a new country, a new experience, that's why you play rugby. You get the opportunities to go and do these things, and your career will be over soon enough so you might as well make the most of those chances when you get them. And he's only there for six months, so he'll be back and raring to go and hopefully refreshed for the Test season."