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‘Felt like I could compete’: Michael Hooper reflects on SVNS Series debut

By Finn Morton
Australia's Michael Hooper speaks with reporters during SVNS Series debut in Hong Kong China. Picture: World Rugby.

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper “felt like I could compete” on the SVNS Series after making his debut with Australia at the prestigious Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens over the weekend.

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Hooper, 32, was injected into SVNS for the first time on Friday evening after being named to come off the pine against a Fiji side that thrives whenever they play at Hong Kong Stadium.

The 125-Test veteran, who also claimed four John Eales Medals during his illustrious 15s career, showed glimpses of promise before an iconic steal at the breakdown in the final play.

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Australia went on to make the semi-finals, but after losing to arch-rivals New Zealand, Hooper was handed a maiden SVNS Series start in the third-place playoff against Ireland.

After that fixture, Hooper disappeared away from the watchful eyes of fans by walking down the north-west tunnel before stopping to reflect on his first taste of rugby sevens.

“Just how quick it is, how quick the game is,” Hooper told RugbyPass and other reporters after being asked what he’s learned. “It’s over in a flash.

“Probably it being like real rugby… I felt good out there, I felt like I could compete.

“There’s some areas of the game that I think I can get a lot better at for sure; how I link with other players and when I can impact the game. It was a good weekend.”

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In Hooper’s one and only start across the weekend, the Aussie continued to show skills that made him such a force in the 15s game, but there’s still plenty to learn in SVNS.

Ireland were too good in the end as they equalled their best finish of the season with a bronze medal. Hugo Lennon scored a rapid double which ultimately sunk the Aussies 14-5.

Finn Morton spoke with former Wallaby Michael Hooper after his SVNS Series debut. Picture: World Rugby.

But the experience to start a match seemed like an important milestone for Hooper who described the opportunity as “more controllable” as opposed to coming off the bench.

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“I didn’t have high minutes. That was probably the most amount of time there in that game and I felt good,” Hooper said.

“We go three weeks at home now, a bit of a down week, and then two really good weeks and get over toe Singapore. I’ll be better again then.

“You know that you’re going to be out there on the first whistle. You know you’re either going to be receiving or (kicking off),” he explained.

“You can prepare for the things that are coming your way.

“On the bench, which I haven’t had a lot of practice even over my whole career, you’re coming on with a minute to go, two minutes to go, the game’s in the balance. Context means a lot more coming off the bench.

“So at the start of the game nil-all, you let fly.”

Australia have dropped to sixth on the SVNS Series overall standings after neighbouring nation New Zealand took out the title at the coveted Hong Kong Sevens.

The Aussies have made two Cup finals this season – losing both – but have also failed to make it past the pool stage and into the quarter-finals on two occasions.

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