Lions will miss O’Connell - Hooper
Australian openside flanker delighted that his captain James Horwill escapes a ban
Lions wing Alex Cuthbert breaks clear of Michael Hooper to score the Lions second try during the First Test match at Suncorp Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Australia openside Michael Hooper insists the British and Irish Lions will miss the presence of Paul O’Connell during the remainder of the tour.
O’Connell has been ruled out of the second and third Tests in Melbourne and Sydney after fracturing his arm in the 23-21 victory over the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium.
Having stood toe-to-toe with the 2009 Lions captain and Ireland second row, Cooper knows the influence he has in the Lions’ camp.
“Paul’s an intimidating figure when you see him standing across from you in a lineout,” he said. “He attracts a lot of attention. He’ll be a big loss to their camp and it’s a shame.
“He finished the game with a broken arm so you can see how much he wants to be there. There will be someone who steps in who is just as good. Maybe they won’t bring the same emotional or spiritual thing that he’d bring, but skill-wise it will be the same.”
While O’Connell will miss the business end of the series, Australia were celebrating the availability of captain James Horwill.
Horwill was controversially cleared of stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones at the Suncorp Stadium by a disciplinary hearing on Sunday evening.
“It was great to keep our skipper. He’s a massive motivational part of our team,” Hooper said. “We get a lot of drive from him in the words he says and his presence on the field. “We know that O’Connell was a big player for the Lions, very similar to Horwill.”
Hooper spent much of the second half of Saturday’s first half playing at centre due to a succession of injuries that decimated Australia’s midfield.
“It was really enjoyable at centre, I’d love another crack at it. It was good, James O’Connor and Adam Ashley-Cooper helped me out,” he said.
“I was shaking a bit at one point — there were a few things going on that I was unaware of. I’ve played two games (there) for the mighty Manly Marlins back home, but that’s about it.”
Australia must win the remaining two Tests if they are to repeat their series triumph of 2001 and deny the Lions a first successful tour for 16 years.
“We’re brown bread you could say if we lose! It’s do or die for us now, there’s no buffer,” Hooper said. We wanted to win every game. That’s not realistic now, but we’d be happy with a series win.
“It would be really exciting if it came down to a series decider. We have to put everything into this weekend, it’s huge for us. We put ourselves in a position to win at the weekend and we need to do that again.”