Australia sevens coach discusses Michael Hooper’s future


Australia aren’t too far off the pace in the SVNS Series. While they were pipped by SVNS Series leaders Argentina in the Perth final on Sunday evening, there’s plenty to like about this team.

With playmaker Maurice Longbottom returning to near-career-best form, and with veteran Henry Hutchison back in the mix, the Aussies will be tough to beat in Vancouver next month.

But with the new-look SVNS Series leading to a Grand Final tournament in Madrid later this year, all teams are building to that event. Fortunately for Australia, their depth is a major talking point.

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The Aussies, who played in front of their home fans at Perth’s HBF Park over the weekend, have big-name recruit Michael Hooper waiting to be called upon in the coming months.

Hooper, who is a four-time John Eales Medallist with the Wallabies, wasn’t available to play at the event on Australia’s west coast.

Coach John Manenti has suggested that ‘Hoops’ is potentially unlikely to get a run in Vancouver or Los Angeles, but advice from medical and training staff will play into that decision.

“Back-to-back tournaments, probably not the time to start him but I’ll let the S&C (strength and conditioning coach) and the physio direct me where he is,” Manenti told reporters after Australia’s 31-5 loss to Argentina in the SVNS Perth final.

“He’s been around the group a bit now and he’ll pick up the footy components quite easy.

“Obviously athletically we want him right.”

Australia fought valiantly in the Perth decider, but they just couldn’t match the physicality that the Argies brought to the table.

Argentina, who defeated Australia in last month’s SVNS Cape Town event, has speed to burn with Marcos Moneta’s purple patch continuing with a double in this match.

But it’s their size and brute strength which is especially stunning. Look no further than try-scorer German Schulz if you need an example.

Meanwhile, the Aussies had to lean on experienced campaigner Nick Malouf and Nathan Lawson for big minutes every time the team took the field.

But, other than Hooper, the team has other players waiting in the wings.

“We’ve got a few other forwards in our squad which will help. I’m asked an enormous amount of Nick Malouf and Nathan Lawson, they’re playing nearly 14 minutes every game because they’re our big bodies,” Malouf said.

“But at home we’ve got Michael Icely who’s very close, ready to go. Henry Paterson, he’s close and ready to go and a bloke called Michael Hooper who should add a bit more grunt to us as well.

“Over the next two weeks tournaments or Hong Kong, Singapore, those guys will work their way back in and what it’ll means is we can give those big boys a bit of a break when they’re punchier on the field.

“I felt, a bit like Cape Town, we got to the final hanging on a little bit just from an energy level wise… we’ll get a few guys to add to that and we’ll work hard.

“We’ve had a fantastic training block leading into this so I’m really happy we’ve got to the final because it should resonate with the boys, the hard work and the quality of training gets you to where you need to be.

“The challenge for us is coming back and training hard and going to Vancouver and LA and doing the same again.”

SVNS Vancouver gets underway on February 23 to 25. Those interested in watching some of the world’s best rugby while enjoying the best party in town can get tickets HERE.





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