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Michael Hooper headlines formidable Australia men’s sevens select squad

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

With the new-look SVNS season waiting on the horizon, the Australian men’s team has unveiled a formidable squad to a formidable lineup to take on the rugby sevens world in 2023/24.

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SVNS veteran Nick Malouf will lead the squad once again this season, but the inclusion of former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper from earlier January is undoubtedly the big talking point.

Hooper, who won the John Eales Medal four times during an illustrious 15s career, had his Wallabies career cut agonisingly short when coach Eddie Jones overlooked the flanker for the World Cup squad.

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But an opportunity to start anew beckoned. With the Olympic Games in Paris just around the corner, Hooper will join a 16-man Australian squad on the 2023/24 SVNS circuit.

Malouf has been named to lead the side after an injury-riddled 2022/23 campaign, while Henry Hutchison is set to return after a long stint on the sidelines due to a devastating ACL injury.

Ben Dowling returns to sevens after a season with the NSW Waratahs, while the trio of Hadley Tonga, Hayden Sargeant and Michael Icely are young players to keep an eye out for this season.

“I am thrilled with the group we have,” head coach John Manenti said in a statement. “We are starting to build some real consistency with the core of the group, while adding quality through some new faces.“I am over the moon to be able to welcome back Henry Hutchison into the playing squad – an ACL injury always tests a player’s resolve to come back, and ‘Hutch’ has worked his tail off to get back.“Hadley is one of the most exciting young players in Rugby – he is super-fast and extremely elusive. He’s only young, but I think he can make a real impact this year.“It’s great to have Ben [Dowling] back too. He showed plenty of quality when he was with us a couple of years ago, and it looks like his time with the Waratahs has only helped make him a more complete player.“Throw in the experience and skill of Malouf, Paterson, Roache, Paterson, Josh and James Turner, ‘Moz’ Longbottom, Lawson, Clements, Bird and Gonzalez, and we’re starting to see some continuity from year-to-year – which can only be a good thing.”

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The opportunity to don your country’s colours is perhaps the greatest honour that any rugby player can achieve in rugby.

But doing it on the world’s biggest sporting stage is an honour that a significant minority of athletes get to experience. To be an Olympian is dream-like for many.

With the Olympic Games set to unite the sporting world in Paris next year, rising star Dally Bird is looking to do everything he can to make sure he’s part of that squad.

“I’ve come in a pretty good time. I was kind in and around the squad a couple of years ago but coming in full-time last year (and) just having this goal of the Olympics – that’s what we’re always working towards. It’s always on a four-year cycle, working hard to get to the Olympics,” Bird told RugbyPass.

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“Blokes like (Henry) Patto, (Dietrich) Roachey, they’ve been in here five, six years and all they’ve got eyes for the gold medal at the Olympics so it brings that bit of hunger to the group.

“We know how many good players are in sevens and Australian rugby so we’ve got to earn our spot in the team.

“The end goal, the big goal is to make the Olympic team and have a positive impact over there in Paris.

“But for each tournament, I just go into the tournament knowing what my role is… I think Jonny and Chuck have got to the stage where they can trust me at the end of the game to make a tackle, make a turnover and make a pass.

“If I’m making one tackle, one turnover and one pass a game, that’s what I need to do and I’m happy.”

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The 2023/24 SVNS season gets underway on December 2-3 in Dubai. One week later, the world’s best sevens players will take their talents to Cap Town.

Michal Hooper, who is unavailable for those two events, is expected to debut at the Perth SVNS which gets underway on Australia Day (January 26).

Australians can watch every round of the HSBC SVNS series exclusive, ad-free, live and on-demand on Stan Sport.

AUSTRALIA MEN’S SEVENS SQUAD – 2023/24 SEASONBen DowlingDally BirdDietrich RoacheHadley TongaHayden SargeantHenry HutchisonHenry PatersonJames TurnerJosh TurnerMatt GonzalezMaurice LongbottomMichael HooperMichael IcelyNathan LawsonNick Malouf ©Tim Clements

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