Australia Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper has been cleared to play the All Blacks in Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider in Sydney.
After originally being slapped with a two-match ban for a hit on Argentine five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez during the Wallabies’ comprehensive 34-9 win against Argentina in Mendoza, Hooper’s suspension was then halved to one week.
It was agreed Hooper would serve this suspension by missing Manly’s club rugby semi-final on Saturday against Randwick.
SANZAR then appealed the decision on Friday, and after an hour and a half video conference on Sunday evening, the appeal was thrown out and Hooper was finally given the green light to play his ninth Test against the All Blacks in front of a home crowd.
“Yeah glad it’s over, glad it’s wrapped up and I can really look forward to this week and moving forward into the first Bledisloe,” Hooper said on Saturday evening. “It’s been a little bit tough but I have been preparing as if I’ve been right to play, of course pending selection, and trying to get into the team for this week.”
SANZAR’s tough stance to request to have a formal hearing looked over by an independent appeals review officer was challenged vehemently by the ARU.
“It was found that Hooper, in circumstances of considerable frustration and in order to try and rid himself of his opponent, drew back his free right arm and … struck out at the opponent’s head and neck area with his open hand,” read the original judicial officer’s findings.
“I found no aggravating factors to be present but did find a number of mitigating factors including Hooper’s good character and repute along with his good disciplinary record.”
Australia are top of the table on for and against over the world’s number one side in New Zealand, meaning a draw in Sydney on Saturday would be enough for the Wallabies to claim their first Rugby Championship title since 2011.
As for the Bledisloe Cup, Australia need to win or draw the game if they are to regain the coveted trophy which has eluded them since 2003.