‘Don’t do it’: Sonny Bill’s advice to Hooper before Sevens switch

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Before he decided to make the full-time switch to the Australian rugby sevens set-up, Michael Hooper contacted former All Black Sonny Bill Williams for advice.

Williams was no stranger to changing codes, having switched seamlessly to the 15-man game from rugby league before competing for New Zealand in sevens at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The advice from Williams was short and sweet: Don’t do it.

“That didn’t fill me with a heap of confidence,” Hooper laughed. “I haven’t spoken to a huge amount of guys [who have made the switch from 15s to sevens], but I do want to get a lot of information from the guys who do play sevens and I need to lean on them a lot. I want to pick their brains because it is a different game.”

Hooper arrived back in Australia ready for his new challenge after an appearance for the Barbarians in a defeat to Wales in Cardiff in early November.

After 125 Tests for the Wallabies – more than half of them as captain – Hooper has joined the Australian sevens team at the ripe old age of 32, and is targeting a place in the team for the Paris Olympics next year. French halfback Antoine Dupont, arguably the world’s best player, is set to play for the host nation at the Games, adding even more prestige to the tournament.

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper who is now playing for Australia 7s team Rugby Australia at Moore Park, Monday 20th of November 2023. Credit: Dion Georgopoulous

There is a long list of players who have successfully switched from 15s to sevens, but most have been backline players – such as Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi, who played for Australia in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Given the huge cardiovascular demands of the sport, few forwards have been able to adapt to the shortened game. Furthermore, Hooper has played just a single sevens tournament in his career, as a teenager for the Manly Marlins.

Overseas clubs were interested in Hooper, so why did he choose to enter the world of sevens?

“There were offers throughout the year to go elsewhere and nothing sort of really pricked my ears up,” Hooper said. “[Then] I actually thought there’s the opportunity to play a different game and the opportunity of the Olympics at the end of it.

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is trying his hand at sevens.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos

“Like, imagine doing an [Olympics] opening ceremony for Australia, walking out for your country would be pretty remarkable.

“I speak to the guys here and they’re talking about winning gold, that’s a motivated bunch of guys I can get around pretty easily.”

Hooper has given himself six months to get up to speed and conditioned for sevens and will hope to debut for Australia in the third round of the World Sevens Series in Perth in January.

Watch the World Rugby Sevens on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport, kicking off in Dubai on December 2. Every round exclusive, ad free, live and on demand.

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