Hooper hoping for European lift
March 31, 2008
Leeds Carnegie lock and captain Stuart Hopper is hoping a continental distraction will fire his side up for the increasingly desperate fight against Premiership relegation.
Leeds travel to take on Bath - the club Hooper has agreed to join on a three-year contract in the summer - on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup with a home semi-final against Sale Sharks or Brive awaiting the winners.
"It's two weeks before the next Premiership game," said Hooper after the 10-try, 66-7 Premiership thrashing at Saracens on Sunday which left his side 14 points adrift of Worcester at the bottom of the table.
"In between we've got a quarter-final which gives us something to focus on and perhaps take away from the glare of the Premiership and get a bit of momentum through that game.
"We had a domestic cup final [a 20-12 win over Bath in 2005] which was a useful distraction..." - Leeds finished eighth in the Premiership that season - "...so this quarter-final could do the same thing."
Hooper, 26, scored Leeds's solitary try at Saracens and admitted the turnaround in fortunes after recent results was tough to stomach.
"On the face of it, and deep down, it's a really hard result to take. Absolutely gutting.
"We've had two good results [a draw at Worcester and a win at home to Newcastle] in the last two weeks and we'd talked about not throwing it away but we did that at Saracens.
"I don't like to look at excuses like injuries. We are all professional rugby players, nobody was pulled off the street to play in that game. You've got to stand up and be counted and some of us didn't do that.
"There were missed chances but there was more than that which didn't go for us. I didn't enjoy it and personally scoring a try didn't do anything for me.
"I was quite adamant I wanted to get the Bath move sorted early so I could concentrate on this year. So I can honestly say I haven't thought too much about it. The Leeds situation is taking up all my time.
"We're not going to give up or throw the towel in."
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra