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‘Like watching Brad Pitt’: Why Michael Hooper will 'benefit’ Aussie 7s

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

Former Wallaby Cameron Shepherd believes Michael Hooper can be a “big benefit” to the Australian sevens side after debuting on the SVNS Series in Hong Kong China last week.

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Hooper, who wore the No.77 during the iconic three-day event at Hong Kong Stadium, initially entered the SVNS arena as a second-half substitute in Australia’s pool stage win over Fiji.

The former Wallabies captain played at least a couple of minutes in each of Australia’s fixtures, except for the semi-final defeat to New Zealand where he was an unused substitute.

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Coach John Manenti handed ‘Hoops’ a maiden start on the Series in Australia’s third-place playoff against Ireland, with the Test veteran showing signs of promise.

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

After that match, Hooper took a moment to stop and reflect on his SVSN Series debut. Hooper was positive about the experience but understood that there is still a long way to go.

With two more events on the SVNS Series in Singapore and the Grand Final in Madrid, Hooper still has plenty of time to develop his sevens skillset in a bid to make the Olympics squad.

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“First and foremost, apparently it was like watching Brad Pitt walk around Hong Kong with the amount of attention he got which is great to hear,” Cameron Shepherd said on Stan Sports’ Rugby Heaven.

“Hoops has also been given huge recognition from his teammates about what it’s been like to bring him to the group as far as a leader.

“As far as his performance, he still needs a little bit of polish. He’s probably not reading the situation as well as he should, as often as he should – he’s taking the ball and getting isolated occasionally.

“But we know how good of a player he is. He’s unbelievable, fitness will come. I think he can be a big benefit to that team.”

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Playing alongside the likes of Nick Malouf, Maurice Longbottom and Hayden Sargent, Hooper was caught out of position and beaten for pace a number of times at the Hong Kong Sevens.

But there are positives, including an iconic steal at the breakdown in the final play of Australia’s statement win over serial Hong Kong champions Fiji on Friday night.

Hooper has time now to learn more about the game ahead of the final leg of the SVNS Series regular season. There are about three and a half weeks now until Hooper and his Australian teammates take the field in Singapore.

“With Hoops, he understands he’s not going to invent a new skill. He’s not going to be faster, more athletic, dangerous in open space – he knows that, he’s openly said that,” former Wallaby Justin Harrison added.

“But what we saw in the positive clips: get up, turnover, straight over the ball… they’re the two or three things that he’s brought through from his performance in 15s and putting it on display in sevens.

“He’s multitalented and he’s an athlete… don’t understand how significant that is for a 32-year-old to change the way that his muscle memory operates in a fast-twitch environment.

“Just to get on the grass there in itself, we know Hoops isn’t happy with that, is an amazing performance.”

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