:Australia captain Michael Hooper has withdrawn from Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with Argentina in Mendoza and will return home after informing coach Dave Rennie he was not in the right frame of mind to play.
Hooper trained with the team this week and was selected to play on Saturday, but informed management he wished to withdraw from the fixture and return to Australia.
"While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time," Hooper said in a media release from Rugby Australia.
"My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don’t feel I am able to fulfil my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset."
Prop James Slipper will lead the side in Hooper’s absence, while his place in the team at flank has been taken by Fraser McReight.
"Michael’s one of the most professional and impressive men I’ve coached. I know this has been a difficult decision for him," Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said. "He’s shown true courage by acknowledging where he is at and acting on it."
There has been no indication from Hooper whether his decision to step away from the game is a temporary one, or will be an extended break.
The 30-year-old made his test debut in 2012 and has played 121 times for the Wallabies. Last year he passed George Gregan's record for the most tests as captain.
Some indifferent form for the team, including last year's autumn internationals and last month's 2-1 home series loss to England, put Hooper's captaincy in the spotlight, but he has as yet given no specific explanation of his mindset issues.
With a little over a year to go until the Rugby World Cup in France, Hooper's future with the team now hangs in the balance and while Rugby Australia will support him, they will also be keen to hear his plans.
McReight is a solid replacement in the short-term, having been in good form for Queensland Reds and a surprise omission from the England series.