Wallabies legend gives honest assessment of Michael Hooper’s Sevens switch

David Skippers
Drew Mitchell and Michael Hooper image 2024.jpg

Former Wallabies duo Michael Hooper and Drew Mitchell.

Legendary Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell is backing his former captain, Michael Hooper, to make a successful transition to Sevens as he bids to make his country’s squad for the Olympic Games in Paris later this year.

While Hooper did not receive much game-time while making his debut in the shortened version of the game during Australia’s campaign at the Hong Kong SVNS last week, he made his mark with some big defensive hits which was one of his strengths during his 125-cap international career.

Still adapting to the pace of Sevens

Mitchell was there to watch his good friend and former teammate play and while Hooper is still getting used to the frenetic pace at which Sevens is played, he will get another chance to adapt to it when the Singapore leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series is held during the first weekend in May.

The Sevens tournament at the Paris Olympics will run from July 24 to July 30.

“It’s one thing to train for it for a long time and feel like you know what you’re going to be faced with, but there’s nothing like game experience, so it was nice for him to get out there,” Mitchell told Fox Sports.

“He’ll be better for it over the next couple of tournaments, but it was really nice to see him out there in jersey 77 which I thought was a nice touch.

“I think he’s got time to be ready (for the Olympics). He’s just got so much experience.

“He’ll definitely take a lot from the Hong Kong experience. There are things that he did well and things that he’ll want to improve on, but that’s the nature of playing your first tournament.

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“As fit as all the players are in rugby, it’s such a different kind of fitness in sevens. Say the ball is in play for a couple of minutes, that doesn’t seem like a long time, but with the amount of space there is and how much ground they have to cover, you can get into a real hole.

“Having that effort on effort is the hardest thing, and everything in sevens is amplified because there’s not a lot of room to get anything wrong.”

While Mitchell was full of optimism about Hooper’s sevens career, he was less enthusiastic when speaking about his beloved Wallabies‘ form in the Test arena in recent years.

“I think we just need to steady the ship,” said the 40-year-old, in reference to Australia’s coaching changes which saw Joe Schmidt replace Eddie Jones as head coach after the latter oversaw a horror 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign in France.

“It’s probably been a bit turbulent for the last five years. There have been a lot of changes in key positions – whether that’s coaches or in the boardroom – so I think we need some stability and better decision making,” he added.

‘Good appointments’

“The appointments that have been made recently look good, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of people talking about the golden decade ahead of us, but it’s only a golden decade if you take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.

“We haven’t so far, but hopefully we can turn that around. We haven’t performed well on the field for a long time, but off the field we’ve probably been worse for the best part of the past 20 years.

“That coincides and I think one probably feeds the other, so we need to get better at both.”

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