‘Not the fastest, not the fittest’ – Michael Hooper’s brutally honest assessment ahead of Sevens debut

Colin Newboult
Michael Hooper, Australian star, who is set to make his Sevens debut.

Michael Hooper, Australian star, who is set to make his Sevens debut.

Australian star Michael Hooper has been incredibly honest over where he currently stands ahead of his World Rugby SVNS series debut in Hong Kong.

The Wallabies centurion, who represented his country at the 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups in XVs, has switched to the shorter form of the game ahead of the Paris Olympics.

An Achilles injury has delayed the 32-year-old’s first appearance in Sevens but he has recovered from that issue to take his place in the squad ahead of next weekend’s tournament.

Comparison to Dupont

Unlike fellow XVs star Antoine Dupont, who featured in Canada and the United States, Hooper has decided to focus his entire year on the sport.

Dupont only joined France for a couple of months before going back to the 15-a-side game and made his return for Toulouse in the Top 14 recently.

The Frenchman will be at the Olympics but his preparation has effectively been completed by playing in those two SVNS series legs.

“I’m not the fastest, not the fittest, so that doesn’t start well! But I’ll give it an absolute shift,” Hooper told reporters.

“I’m gonna find out, I’m gonna learn as much as anyone when I actually hit the field and see what I can do on the park.”

Hooper has a limited time to make an impression with just three tournaments remaining before the Olympic Games starts, and there are no guarantees that he will be in the final Australia squad.

“I’ll know if I make that journey when the squad’s picked,” he said when discussing his Olympic dream.

“I’ve got this tournament and then another four weeks of training and then Singapore, and same again amount of training, and then Madrid.

“We as a squad will go to, potentially, another hit out against a couple of other nations before the squad actually gets picked.”

‘Rookie’ Michael Hooper set to make Sevens debut in Hong Kong as Olympic Games loom

Dupont adapted very quickly to Sevens and, by the end of his stint, was an influential figure in the French team as they won their first world series title in 19 years.

Hooper is not necessarily expecting to make that sort of rapid progress and the Wallabies legend readily admits that it could take time.

“To think that I’m a finished product after Hong Kong, I think I’d be probably applying too much pressure to myself unfairly,” he said.

“We saw (Antoine) Dupont come out and start his campaign really well. That’s great for him. I hope to have a really good impact in this team and find what piece of the puzzle I am and how I can really contribute to these guys.

“That may be this round, that may be next round, (or) it may never come and I’m open to all those possibilities. That’s kind of the exciting thing of this challenge.”

A new challenge

Although the laws are basically the same in sevens – with the odd tweak – it is still very much a new experience for the 32-year-old.

“(It’s) very rewarding actually. I’ve got a few people to thank because this has been a hard road for me… I’ve had some setbacks before my contract even started,” Hooper added.

“It’s quite a shift to what I expected in terms of the physicality needed to play this game and I’m not there yet. This is going to be a big step forward entering the field and playing.

“I’ve been a genuine student, trying to be a student in what people would imagine I’ve done for a while but it’s not the case, it’s a different world.

“The team have been really open to giving me a lot of feedback.”

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