Wallaby vice-captain in line for Eales medal double

RUGBY: Wallabies vice-captain Michael Hooper is in line to become only the second dual winner of the John Eales Medal as rugby union's number one player.

The only previous two-time winner in the medal's 13-year history was George Smith, who took out the award in 2002 and 2008.

Hooper, who has had a fantastic Super Rugby season for the Waratahs, and has been arguably the Wallabies' most consistent player, was denied back-to-back glory last year by Israel Folau who had a standout domestic and international season.

Former captain David Pocock is another player strongly fancied to poll well in voting after making his return from successive knee reconstructions.

The winner will be announced in Sydney tonight, before the Wallabies head off to the US to set up a training camp at the famous University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Back-rower and 55-Test veteran Wycliff Palu said players were starting to pick up the pace at training on their own account as the squad prepared to leave.

Palu said he had been working on getting back to peak fitness following some injuries, adding he was "thankful" to be part of the World Cup squad.

"I've played under Check (coach Michael Chieka). I guess he knows me and I know him pretty well," the big No.8 said.

"Obviously the body is starting to feel good and hopefully I can get some more minutes on the paddock because this is going to be my last World Cup."


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