SYDNEY — Long-time Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is shifting his focus to rugby sevens from the 15-a-side game with a plan to play for Australia at next year’s Paris Olympics.
The 32-year-old Hooper was contentiously omitted by coach Eddie Jones from Australia’s ill-fated Rugby World Cup squad. The Australians failed to reach the knockout stage for the first time, and Jones has since departed as coach.
Hooper on Thursday said he had signed to play in the newly-revamped global sevens series in the build-up to the 2024 Games.
A four-time winner of the John Eales Medal as Australian rugby’s player of the year, the 125-time capped Hooper will join the sevens program fulltime in January.
The veteran flanker hopes to play his first tournament at the inaugural Perth, Western Australia sevens event.
A Wallabies’ captain on a record 69 occasions, the announcement almost certainly means the end of Hooper’s national ambitions in the 15-a-side game.
He said he’s looking forward to his new challenge in what he called a “massively exciting year with the Olympics on the horizon.”
“The transition is something I have thought a lot about and I’m extremely motivated by the challenge of playing sevens and trying to earn my way into this team,” Hooper said in a Rugby Australia statement. “I’ve started making a few changes to my training in preparation and can’t wait to get started in January.”
Australia’s men’s team has already qualified for the Olympic competition, which will be held at the Stade de France in Paris in July.
The Australian team starts its sevens series campaign on Dec. 2-3 in Dubai, before visiting Cape Town, Perth, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and Madrid on the road to Paris.
Few test players have attempted the transition from Wallabies to the sevens format, which is a shorter, faster game with fewer stoppages for set pieces.
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