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.
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.