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Sevens debut still on the back-burner for Hooper

NEWS: Michael Hooper will not make his Australia rugby sevens debut in Perth as expected, with the former Wallaby’s first outing delayed in a hit to his Olympic aspirations.

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The 32-year-old was controversially overlooked for last year’s World Cup in the 15-a-side format, and after announcing his switch to sevens in November had been eyeing off the January 26-28 tournament in Western Australia as his first step on the road to the Paris Games that begin in July.

But the 125-Test veteran’s first appearance has been pushed back until at least the Vancouver-Los Angeles leg of the world series, beginning in late February.

Coach John Manenti said the former flank needed more time to adapt to the high-octane sevens workload.

“We’ve decided a take a conservative approach with his transition to the world series and we will look for him to take part in further tournaments later on in the year,” Manenti told rugby.com.au.

“We are looking forward to seeing what he can add to the program in the coming weeks and months.”

A debut in Canada would mean Hooper has five tournaments to press his case for a Games berth.

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That would align with French Test star and Olympics aspirant Antoine Dupont, who is also slated to make his sevens debut in Vancouver.

Australia’s men won a maiden world series in 2022 under Manenti, who returned to the job after coaching the nation’s women at the Tokyo Olympics.

They are currently sitting sixth on the world-series table after two events, losing the final to ladder-leading Argentina in Cape Town in December to close out 2023.

Australia will play Ireland, Great Britain and the USA in their men’s pool fixtures in Perth.

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