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Ex-Wallabies captain Michael Hooper named to debut on SVNS Series

By Finn Morton
Michael Hooper of the Wallabies gestures during game three of the International Test match series between the Australia Wallabies and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground on July 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is set to debut on the SVNS Series at the prestigious event in Hong Kong next month after being named in Australia’s 13-man squad.

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Hooper, 32, is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in Australian rugby history after playing 125 Test matches and winning a record four John Eales Medals.

The SVNS recruit trained with the Australian side for the first time last year, but an Achilles injury has delayed Hooper’s start in his quest to make the squad for the upcoming Olympics in Paris.

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But Hooper, who travelled with the Aussies to Vancouver and Los Angeles but didn’t take the field, will enter the fray of rugby sevens at the world-famous Hong Kong Stadium on April 5-7.

Hooper is one of two changes to Australia’s squad with coach John Manenti also welcoming back Maurice Longbottom who returns from a calf injury.

“We’re really excited about heading back to Hong Kong, where we have had some recent success,” Manenti said in a statement.

“Our performances in LA were some of our best this season and we have the opportunity be better again next week.

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“We welcome back Maurice Longbottom, who will add some spark in the midfield and for the first time we’ll get to see Michael Hooper in an Australian Sevens jersey.

“‘Hoops’ has worked hard to make his way into the squad, and we’re all delighted to welcome the ‘rookie’ into the mix.

“Like any new player it will be a learning experience for him, and an important start point to a potential Paris Olympics.

“Every pool is tough and ours is no exception with Fiji first up and then LA winners France to kick off day one action. We’ll need to be at our best.”

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Australia made back-to-back Cup finals earlier this season and continued to fight hard during the two most recent legs in North America.

As for the women’s side, who still sit above arch-rivals New Zealand on the overall SVNS Series standings, they’ve made three changes including the return of Bienne Terita.

Terita, who was scoring tries for fun before picking up an injury at SVNS Perth in January, returns to Tim Walsh’s side along with Heidi Dennis and debutant Bridget Clark.

In a major blow to the squad, Dominique Du Toit and Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea are both out with injuries.

“The Olympic runaway is nearly upon us, and the squad is coming together providing some real depth, points of difference and some experienced and stable combinations,” Walsh said.

“Dominque Du Toit is unavailable due to a lingering ankle injury, paving the way for debutant Bridget Clark.

“It’s a welcome return to a very powerful and dangerous player in the form of Bienne Terita.

“Bienne adds experience, speed and a physical presence to the line-up. Also returning for her second appearance is the young and explosive Heidi Dennis.”

Michael Hooper and the Australian men’s team kick off their campaign in Hong Kong against Fiji at 8:30pm (AEDT) on Friday 5 April.

The women’s team are also playing Fiji first up at 3:25pm (AET) before playing Ireland later that evening.

Australia men’s sevens side for Hong Kong:

Henry Hutchison, Ben Dowling, Henry Palmer, Dietrich Roache, Henry Paterson, Matt Gonzalez, Nick Malouf, Maurice Longbottom, Nathan Lawson, James Turner, Hayden Sargeant, Michael Hooper, Michael Icely

Australia women’s sevens side for Hong Kong:

Sharni Smale, Faith Nathan, Teagan Levi, Madison Ashby, Charlotte Caslick, Kaitlin Shave, Tia Hinds, Bella Nasser, Maddison Levi, Heidi Dennis, Bridget Clark, Bienne Terita, Sariah Paki

 

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