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Michael Hooper's switches XVs for potential Olympic glory

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Thursday Nov 16, 2023

In a surprising twist to his illustrious rugby career, former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has set his sights on a different path by joining the national rugby sevens squad. The move comes as Hooper seeks to culminate his remarkable journey with an Olympic gold medal at the 2024 Games in Paris. This decision follows his omission from the Wallabies’ World Cup squad, a move that raised eyebrows under former coach Eddie Jones.

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Hooper, a four-time recipient of the John Eales Medal for the best Wallabies player, boasts 125 caps as a flanker. In January, he will officially become a full-time member of the sevens program, with aspirations to make his debut at the inaugural Perth SVNS event over the Australia Day long weekend. This strategic move effectively signals the end of Hooper’s ambitions in the 15-a-side game, particularly as he steps away from his role as Wallabies’ captain, having led the team a record 69 times.

Expressing enthusiasm for the challenges ahead, Hooper acknowledged the monumental shift in his career. “The transition is something I have thought a lot about, and I’m extremely motivated by the challenge of playing sevens and trying to earn my way into this team,” he remarked in a statement from Rugby Australia. The Olympic prospect adds a layer of excitement to what he describes as a “massively exciting year with the Olympics on the horizon.”

Grateful for the opportunity, Hooper thanked John Manenti, the Australian men’s sevens coach, and Scott Bowen, the national performance manager for sevens. Manenti, in turn, expressed delight at having Hooper join the program, citing his exceptional rugby skills and leadership qualities. The coach anticipates a swift transition for Hooper into the sevens format, confident in his robust skill set.

Australia’s men’s sevens team has already secured qualification for the Olympics, scheduled to take place at the Stade de France in Paris in July. The team’s journey includes the SVNS series, commencing in Dubai on December 2-3 and spanning across various international destinations before the grand finale in Paris. Hooper’s recent appearance for the Barbarians, under Eddie Jones, showcased his sharp form, providing a glimpse of the skills he brings to this new chapter in his rugby odyssey. As the countdown to the Olympics begins, all eyes are on Hooper’s transition to the sevens stage, where he seeks to etch his name in Olympic glory.

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