Informed sources say Hooper is physically and mentally closer to Sevens-ready than he realizes and would not even require a full season on the road with the Australian team in the 2023-24 World Series of Sevens. Sonny Bill Williams, Samu Kerevi, Cheslin Kolbe and Semi Radradra have previously played sevens at the Olympics.
After 13 years of being “institutionalized” under contract with rugby teams, Hooper said he enjoys the freedom of not having any fixed plans beyond the Rugby World Cup in September-October.
Hooper has played 140 games for the Waratahs, having joined the club from the Brumbies in 2013. In ten seasons, Hooper has won the Matt Burke Medal for Best Player in NSW seven times.
Hooper replaced the injured captain Dave Dennis and was the team captain for Super Rugby glory in 2014, and the memories of a fortnight in which NSW beat the Brumbies in the semi-final at the Allianz Stadium and then the Crusaders in the final, in front of a record crowd of 61,823 at Accor Stadium, will last a lifetime.
“It was a great thing to be a part of that team. Rob Horne played in the 2008 final and lost in Christchurch, and I remember the week of the match he said to me: ‘We have to win, because you don’t know if you’ll get another chance,’” Hooper said.
“We won that one, which is good, but we haven’t been to the final since; a semifinal, a couple of finals… but being in that grand final, and hopefully this year will be another opportunity. You never know what you’ve got until you’re over it, and now it’s been nine or ten years. Great memory.”
Hooper said he hoped his legacy would build on the “effort” he had invested in the Waratah.
As the weeks go by until Eddie Jones names a team for the Rugby Championship and subsequently the Rugby World Cup, Hooper said he was happy with his form and welcomed competition from Fraser McReight for the number shirt. 7 of the Wallabies.
“I feel very happy with my performances lately. When I leave, the next 7 move and when he leaves, the next 7 move and the only hope is that that position gets better and better,” he said.
“That would be a great thing for Australian rugby, and the competition is a great thing at all positions. We need that for a World Cup. My place is no different.”
Hooper will return from a week off and set out for the Waratahs, but with NSW locked in sixth place regardless of resultCoach Darren Coleman is expected to make a few more changes.
Mark Nawaqanitawase is set to replace the injured Max Jorgensen at fullback, with Harry Wilson moved to the wing. Jed Holloway is likely to rest as well, and outgoing hooker Tolu Latu may be considered for a final appearance.