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Former Wallabies Captain Hooper Overcomes nerves in successful Sevens debut

  • 3 min read

Former Australia captain Michael Hooper admitted he still has to adapt his game to have an impact on the sevens stage after making his international debut at the Hong Kong Sevens in his bid to secure a spot at the Olympic Games.

The 32-year-old featured in the final moments of Australia’s opening game at Hong Kong Stadium on Friday, a surprise 12-0 win over Olympic champions Fiji, as he launched his quest for selection for Paris in the summer.

“I was bloody nervous on the sideline,” Hooper told The Australian.

“It’s just so different and completely new. The fans were going nuts…so to come on with four minutes to go with the game in the balance, it was tough stuff.”

The four-times Australian player of the year has appeared at the Rugby World Cup twice in the 15-a-side version but, after controversially missing out on the finals in France last year, switched to sevens in a bid to earn a spot on the Olympic team.

Wearing the number 77 shirt, Hooper took to the field as a replacement for Nathan Lawson with less than three minutes remaining and Australia leading after tries from James Turner and Henry Hutchison.

He was immediately involved in the action, making consecutive tackles to snuff out Fijian attempts to find a way back into the game as Australia made a winning start to the tournament.

“I came on and did what I had to do,” Hooper said. “I just had to come on in and finish it off for us.

“I’ve got a wealth of games under my belt, so I’m trying to lean into that.

“The fact is, I’m completely new at this so finding out where I can impact the game, coming up against Fiji round one is pretty daunting. So I’ll just take it step by step from here.”

Hooper’s performance earned praise from Australia head coach John Manenti, who offered no guarantees of a place in the squad for Paris.

“He did well,” Manenti said. “He came on and did what he does pretty well, pilfer, so that was pretty significant.

“He’s been working really hard to get here. We said from the start, nothing was going to be given, he had to earn everything.

“You could see the boys that were on before him playing pretty good footy so he’s going to have to keep fighting and keep proving himself.

“He doesn’t want anything given but the only way we’re going to find out is putting him out there and keep testing him.

“So we’ll keep challenging him and I’m sure, the champion he is, he’ll keep turning up and doing his best.”