Michael Hooper has been flooded with messages of support after the former Wallabies captain announced he was making a switch to rugby sevens in a bid to represent Australia at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The most-capped Wallabies captain of all time, Hooper was controversially left out of Eddie Jones' squad for Australia's disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign in France.
Following that disappointment for the 32-year-old, Hooper has decided to join Australia's rugby sevens squad in a bid to cap his glittering career with an Olympic gold medal. The Wallabies great has signed up to play in the newly-revamped global sevens series in the build-up to the Paris Games and will join the sevens program full-time in January.
The world-class flanker hopes to play his first tournament at the inaugural Perth SVNS event over the Australia Day long weekend. Hooper was capped 125 times over an incredible career for the Wallabies, where he was named John Eales Medalist as the nation's best player an impressive four times.
Hooper captained the national side on a record 69 occasions, overtaking the previous record held by George Gregan (59). He is also a seven-time winner of the Matthew Burke Cup (2013-17, 2019-20) for the NSW Waratahs’ player of the year but is excited to be taking on a new challenge in what he called a "massively exciting year with the Olympics on the horizon".
Michael Hooper relishing sevens switch
"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," Hooper said in a Rugby Australia statement. "I've started making a few changes to my training in preparation and can't wait to get started in January.
"I'd like to thank John Manenti (the Australian men's sevens coach) and Scott Bowen (the national performance manager for sevens) for the opportunity to join the program." The Australian men's team have already qualified for the Olympics which will be held at the Stade de France in Paris in July.
Manenti hailed Hooper as an "outstanding rugby player and a great leader" and said the Aussie side were "thrilled to have him join our program". He added: "We know he's got a strong skillset for Sevens and a big engine and we're looking forward to helping him transition quickly to the format.
"He is a player with big-game experience and to have someone like Michael in our set-up can be a point of difference for us next year." The Australian team start their SVNS series campaign on 2-3 December in Dubai, before visiting Cape Town, Perth, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and Madrid on the road to Paris.
Go well Hoops. An Olympic medal, in France no less, would be a fine finish to a great career
— Derek Murray 🇦🇺🇬🇧 (@dmurray59) November 15, 2023
Michael Hooper a huge loss to XVs but no doubt he’ll rip it up in 7s #engine
— Graeme Gillespie 🇳🇿🏴 (@gginwales) November 15, 2023
Justice for Michael Hooper
7s will treat him better than the 15s did pic.twitter.com/KPGMuDitdg
— BEERBOY-182 🍥 (@beerboy182) November 15, 2023
Good to see former role model, Michael Hooper, join the Aus 7s side for 2024.
— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) November 15, 2023
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) November 15, 2023
Eddie Jones accused of 'unfair' Michael Hooper treatment
Hooper played in the recent match for a Barbarians side coached by his former Wallabies coach Jones, who said the reason for leaving him out of the World Cup squad - alongside veterans Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley - was that they were not "the right role models" for the Aussie squad. Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh said after Jones had agreed to part ways with the Wallabies that it was a "completely unfair" comment about three greats of Australian rugby.
"I think it's a completely unfair comment," Waugh said. "Across Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, I think there's 280-300 Test matches between those three.
"They've all put their body on the line over a long period of time and are role models to not just their peers but young boys and girls coming through the system. So I think it is an absolutely unfair comment towards those players, given what they've contributed to rugby."
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