Australia captain Michael Hooper has decided to stand down as skipper of the New South Wales Waratahs after four years in the role, the Super Rugby side said on Wednesday.
The openside flanker, who has come in for some criticism of his captaincy, particularly at test level, will be replaced by his Wallabies team mate Rob Simmons.
“It’s been an honour to represent New South Wales as a player alone, but the opportunity to lead a fantastic group of men over the journey to date has been a humbling experience,” Hooper said in a news release.
“It’s a role that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but I feel that the time is right for someone like Rob to lead this group in the season ahead.”
Hooper was officially handed the Waratahs captaincy in 2016 but previously held the role on a caretaker basis in place of the injured Dave Dennis, leading the team to victory in the 2014 Super Rugby final.
That was under Michael Cheika, who subsequently appointed Hooper as his test captain when he took over as Wallabies coach.
Cheika resigned after last year’s World Cup and was replaced by Dave Rennie, who was in Sydney this week but will formerly take up his post later in the year.
Lock Simmons, who won the Super Rugby title with the Queensland Reds in 2011, earned his 100th test cap at the World Cup.
The Waratahs finished 12th in the 15-team Super Rugby competition last year and will be looking for a much improved campaign under new coach Rob Penney when the new season gets underway next week.