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‘Was pretty nervy: What Michael Hooper thought of SVNS debut against Fiji

By Finn Morton
Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper (L) is embraced by Australia teammate Hayden Sargeant after his SVNS Series debut. Picture: World Rugby.

Michael Hooper has played more than 120 Test matches in the 15s game, is a four-time John Eales Medallist, and the former Wallabies captain can now add SVNS Series debutant to his incredible rugby resume.

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Hooper, 32, was made to wait for his first match at the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens on Friday, with the likes of South Africa and New Zealand playing both of their fixtures before Australia’s opening pool clash.

But on a beautiful night in Hong Kong China, thousands of vibrant rugby fans momentarily stood silent as Australia prepared to take the field for their Pool A clash with traditional SVNS HKG heavyweights Fiji.

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Henry Hutchison led the team out to celebrate his 50th international sevens tournament, and others in gold jerseys followed closely behind – including Hooper who was near the back.

Hooper came on as a replacement late in the second-half but almost immediately made an impact with an impressive double tackle. ‘Hoops’ also got the ball out wide in space once and sealed the 12-nil win with a trademark steal at the breakdown in the final play.

“Luckily for me, I think there were a couple of stoppages, a couple of knock-ons,” Hooper told RugbyPass & SVNS Series.

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“I’ve heard about the humidity here in Hong Kong and there’s a nice breeze but the ball is still quite wet.

“That allowed for me to catch my breath a couple of times.

“I think that game suited me there,” he added later.

“It wasn’t too expansive, it wasn’t just (defending) in open field which I’m really learning and seeing it’s a different art in sevens.

“That game was a lot of rough and tumble in the middle of the field. Pleased that it kept it to that for the first hit out.”

Australia’s James Turner opened the scoring out wide in the fifth minute and milestone man Henry Hutchison added another try to their lead during the second term.

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

The Aussies raced out to a 12-nil lead over the now-Osea Kolinisau-coached Fiji side, and did so with their marquee debutant watching on from the sidelines.

After waiting all day to play, Hooper was made to wait just that little bit longer to officially take the field on the SVNS Series. But when he began to stretch late in the contest, the camera quickly panned to the former Wallaby.

Anticipation for Hooper’s debut continued to grow and grow, and eventually, fans were rewarded for their patience – and so was Hooper – as the Australian rugby legend graced the international sevens field for the first time on the Series.

“My nerves started going up and up and up,” Hooper reflected.

“We get two tries up but I know that Fiji can score two tries in about two seconds, so to come on in the dying minutes there was pretty nervy.

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“I came on, Nick Malouf was great, guided me around. I just made my tackles, I made a few of those over my career so just stick to the script.”

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Turlough 1 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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