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Big bodies a bonus for Wallabies: Hooper

Captain Michael Hooper believes new Wallabies forwards coach Dan McKellar will be “licking his lips” at the size of some of his players as he looks to bring a harder edge to the squad.

Brumbies coach McKellar is preparing for his first Test series, with the Wallabies taking on France over three games early next month starting at the SCG on July 7.

Hooper, who has recently returned from a sabbatical playing rugby in Japan, said he was feeling the effects after joining the Wallabies in camp on the Gold Coast.

“I may look fresh but the body is pretty sore after a couple of days,” Hooper said on Friday.

“Two weeks in quarantine and then my own training is definitely not where I need to be for some of these guys.

“You forget how big some of the units are here – Sitaleki Timani and Rob Leota – there’s some big fellas here; there’s a bit a pack size change to what I’ve been used to.”

Western Force lock Timani, who played his last Test in 2013, weighs in at 118kg and stands 203cm while newcomer, Rebels flanker Leota is 110kg and 190cm.

Hooper said he had already noticed McKellar’s impact on the group.

“He brings a bit of a hard nose, and I’ve noticed that in the first couple of days,” Hooper said of McKellar.

“He’s got a solid track record there of being able to put together a maul and run a really effective ship and lead a good forwards unit.

“The bodies and size of the people that we have in this environment, he’s got more of that to play with.

“It’s just like a natural progression that guys just seem to get bigger the more levels you go up, so he’s probably licking his lips with some of the specimens he’s got in here in the room.”

Despite some disappointing Australian results in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Hooper said that he was impressed with the improvement of some players since last year and some of the new faces.

He said that watching from afar had given him a different perspective on rugby and he’d grown personally, mentally and physically.

But he stopped short of advocating sabbaticals for all Test players to keep them from permanent big-money moves overseas.

Of the current squad, Marika Koroibete and Isi Naisarani are set to shift offshore while hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa will move to France at the end of the year.

“I think it’s certainly something we should explore, but I’m not saying it’s something that should be a given right for players because each player has a unique path and a unique development,” Hooper said.

“It’s certainly something we should explore … but it is a fine balance, we need experienced players to funnel back information and experience to younger players.

“Getting that balance right I know is something that (Wallabies coach Dave Rennie) is big on and has a really open mind to as well.

“I never saw that happening for myself and then the opportunity presented itself and I now see it as being beneficial.”

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