‘He’s a role model’: Michael Hooper already forging a legacy in sevens
Back when Eddie Jones was still the go-to man for the Wallabies, the former Australian coach threw a baffling metaphorical jab at Michael Hooper with a comment that shocked the rugby world.
After leaving the four-time John Eales Medallist out of the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squad, Jones explained the shock omission of Hooper by saying he “wasn’t a great role model” for the young team.
That decision brought an unjust end to Hooper’s illustrious career in Wallaby gold. While Hooper has certainly had his critics, rugby fans from the world over have watched on in awe as the perceived undersized openside flanker punched well above his weight.
But when the Wallabies door closed on his decorated 15s career, the former Australia captain took up an opportunity to compete at the international level for another year.
Rugby Australia confirmed last week that Hooper has joined the men’s sevens squad for the new-look SVNS series, with the former Wallaby eager to push for a spot in the Olympics squad.
Hooper will officially join the sevens program in January, but the fetching flanker has already trained with his new teammates – and they’ve been left very impressed.
“Hoops is a guy that in our rugby arena has done everything. In the 15s game, he’s a role model,” Aussie sevens ace Tim Clements told Wide World of Sports.
“He’s probably a little embarrassed, but most of us boys were not so long ago in school watching Hoops debut and playing for the Wallabies and running around.
“So to have a guy of his calibre, both on the field and off the field – he’ll be really, really important for us and will only be adding to that competition that we’ve already built in the squad and making the squad better.”
While Hooper is unavailable for the opening two rounds of the SVNS series – Dubai and Cape Town – the 32-year-old is expected to debut in sevens gold at the Perth SVNS on Australia Day (January 26).
That would give Hooper a maximum of six SVNS events to stake his claim for a spot on the plane to the Paris Olympics next year, and clearly, the man affectionately known as ‘Hoops’ seems has already made an impact.
“Having him here lifts everyone’s competitiveness. He’s a real competitor,” halfback Matt Gonzalez mentioned in an interview with Wide World of Sports.
“He had one full training session with us today (Monday) and we’ve seen already at the breakdown that he’s going to be a real pest, even at training, so we’re going to have to be on our game in terms of that stuff.
“We do a lot of seven-on-seven work and it’s usually two-hand touch and the breakdown’s kind of left alone a little bit to give the attacking team a chance, and Hoops was just kind of in there getting his hands around the ball, pulling the ball out, so if we weren’t there quick enough he’d rip the ball out.
“It’s good for us; it keeps us alert and it kind of keeps us accountable for getting to the breakdown quick enough.”
Australian rugby fans can watch the upcoming SVNS season live and on-demand on Stan Sport.