Sports

Izzy-sized shadow hangs over Hooper’s century at the SCG

Finally the footy. A week after the Waratahs and Wallabies decided they wanted to wash their hands of Israel Folau, rugby fans are remembering that Australia's top two Super Rugby sides will battle out for outright conference bragging rights in Sydney this weekend.

A Folau-sized shadow will hang over the game at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday. The Rebels and Waratahs are bulging with world-class talent, one of whom, Michael Hooper, will be playing his 100th game for NSW.

Milestone: Waratahs captain Michael Hooper will play his 100th game for NSW on Saturday.

Milestone: Waratahs captain Michael Hooper will play his 100th game for NSW on Saturday. Credit:AAP

And yet it will be impossible to miss that the competition's all-time top try scorer will not be in their ranks.

NSW coach Daryl Gibson could not afford a philosophical moment on Thursday, busy as he is with playing the hand he's been dealt. But Dave Wessels is at a safe distance and revealed his sadness at the intractable situation unfolding north of the border.

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"I think for the Waratahs, for me I just feel sad in the situation that's happened with Israel," Wessels told media in Melbourne.

"I don't know him personally so I can't comment on the personal side of things but what I do know is he's the number one try scorer in the history of Super Rugby, he's probably one of the best entertainers in the game in the world.

"He's a hell of a player and for him to be lost to Australian rugby is sad and I just don't think there's any winners out of it. I don't think Israel's won out of it, I certainly don't think rugby's won out of it."

Wessels can almost certainly sniff an opportunity to extend his team's seven point lead on the conference ladder this weekend, with the try-scorer rubbed out, Kurtley Beale fighting tonsilitis to fill his shoes and in-form second rower Ned Hanigan injured.

The bookies have given both teams an even chance, indicating they think some wagon-circling will give NSW a boost, but Wessels was sceptical.

"I think temporarily it might be a galvanising thing for the Waratahs," he said.

Missing in action: Israel Folau may never play in a NSW jersey again.

Missing in action: Israel Folau may never play in a NSW jersey again.Credit:Louise Kennerley

"I think if I were the coach I'd be trying to think of a way to do that but the reality is they've lost an absolutely world-class player there, not just for one or two games, it's forever and I think that&Read More – Source

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