Australia’s Hooper hopes to transition from 15s to rugby sevens in time for the Paris Olympics

SYDNEY (AP) — After setting records in the traditional game, ex-Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is ready to complete the transition to rugby sevens in a bid to play for Australia at the Paris Olympics.

Hooper has been picked in Australia’s 13-man squad for next month’s Hong Kong Sevens, the regular highlight of the sevens calendar.

The 32-year-old flanker committed to the sevens program after missing selection for the Rugby World Cup squad last year, but his debut in the shortened format has been delayed because of ankle injuries.

“In terms of getting fit on the field, it’s quite a shift to what I expected in terms of the physicality needed to play this game,” Hooper said. “This is going to be a big step forward, entering the field and playing. It’s a different world.”

He has only three rounds of the sevens world series to prove he’s ready for Olympic selection in July. Hooper, who played 125 test matches for Australia including a record number as captain, is not the first Wallabies veteran to attempt the transition. Blockbusting center Samu Kerevi make Australia’s Olympic team for Tokyo but his game time was limited because of injuries.

“I’m going to learn as much as anyone when I actually hit the field and see what I can do,” Hooper said of his expectations for Hong Kong.

Australia coach John Manenti said Hooper had worked hard to break into the sevens squad and “we’re all delighted to welcome the ‘rookie’ into the mix.”

“Like any new player, it will be a learning experience for him, and an important start point to a potential Paris Olympics.”

The Australian men are in Pool A in the April 5-7 Hong Kong event against two-time Olympic champion Fiji, 2024 Olympic host France and Canada.

The Australian men are in fifth spot in the 2024 world series, behind Argentina, Ireland and group rivals Fiji and France. The French are coming off a drought-breaking title win in Los Angeles.

___

AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.