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Why ex-Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is wearing No.77 in SVNS

By Finn Morton
Michael Hooper is embraced by his Australia teammates after a trademark turnover in the final play of their win over Fiji. Picture: World Rugby.

Rugby fans are quite used to seeing Michael Hooper run around with the No. 7 on his back. The former Wallabies captain won four John Eales Medals, went to two Rugby World Cups and quite simply became an Australian rugby great with that digit on his jersey.

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But wearing two of them, now that’s something new. After being made to wait all day and into the night to debut, Michael Hooper ran out onto the sacred turf at Hong Kong Stadium while wearing the No. 77.

Hooper, 32, came on as a second-half substitute and practically made an immediate impact with a double tackle against Fiji. But that was just the start with ‘Hoops’ also getting the ball out wide once and of course getting stuck in around the breakdown.

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

With the final play of the match, Hooper’s crowning moment on debut came. The Australian may have had a new number on his back, but it was more of the same from the Test rugby veteran who won a penalty with some quick work at a ruck.

Australia had beaten Fiji 12-nil in front of a packed house at the world-famous rugby sevens venue. Hooper and his teammates walked off the field with smiles on their faces but questions still remained about the double digits on his jersey.

But as Hooper explained: “It’s really quite simple,” he told RugbyPass & SVNS Series with a smile. “Seven was taken so I thought I’d take two of them.”

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It was a tense start to the contest with both teams trading blows around midfield but the Australians took some control when James Turner crossed for the opener in the fifth minute.

Milestone man Henry Hutchison added another to the score during the second term as the match began to look like Australia’s lose.

Then, enter Michael Hooper. The former Wallaby was seen stretching on the sidelines before entering the fray of international rugby sevens for a scrum inside Australia’s half.

“Luckily for me, I think there were a couple of stoppages, a couple of knock-ons,” Hooper explained.

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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.”

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