Australian Men's Sevens coach John Manenti is confident Michael Hooper has the necessary skills to succeed in the shortened format as he pushes for a spot at the Paris Olympics.
Hooper will officially join the program on January 1, but has already taken part in a few training runs with the squad ahead of his move.
Manenti has been in discussion with Hooper since before the World Cup, which was confirmed on Thursday, and has already noticed his influence over the squad.
“He feels that he still has value to add to Australia Rugby and we feel like he still has enormous value to add to Australian Rugby,” Manenti said to Rugby.com.au
“It keeps him and his family in Australia rather than potentially overseas where they would have been plenty of offers so I think it’s a win-win for Australian Rugby, Sevens and ‘Hoops’.
“We’re pretty excited. He’s had a few training runs where he’s done some running with us. I did a group session yesterday with the rehab group and already you see just a few extra percent by the boys putting in, wanting to lift their game.
“He’ll have a great effect on the group and it’ll be a great challenge for him because he knows coming into this he’s not going to just turn up and take a place in the team.
“He’ll have to earn it and learn the game…he’s well aware of that and understands this is a challenge and nothing’s given, he’s going to do earn his right and he wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Manenti understands the challenge facing Hooper as he gets up to speed quickly with the new format.
He recruited Wallabies Samu Kerevi and Mark Nawaqanitawase for the Commonwealth Games, with Kerevi featuring at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
"The hardest thing is changing habits,” Manenti explained.
“You’re defending a player one-on-one with five-ten metres around you which doesn’t happen very often in 15s. You find yourself in space where he probably hasn’t found himself in space whilst passing the ball more times in a game of Sevens than possibly in a game.
“It takes time and probably never nailed it with a lot of the guys that drop in from 15s because we don’t give them enough time to play and adjust. Samu (Kerevi) was wonderful and effective during the Olympics and Commonwealth Games but we had to change and play around him because he didn’t have enough time to actually know and embrace the way we play fully."
Despite this, Manenti was under no illusion that Hooper wouldn't be a star in Sevens, potentially debuting on home soil in Perth on the Australia Day weekend.
“He’s got all the natural skill sets (to succeed),” Manenti believes.
“He’s going to be hard on-ball and he’s got speed. People say ‘Is he going to be quick enough?’ There’s no question he’s quick enough, the question is that repeat speed in Sevens, you’re not doing it once or twice, it’s multiple times.
“That’ll take time because it’s a new set of skills but we’re really excited about having him and the base of this squad is really strong.
“...The good thing about having Hoops all year is he’s going to have plenty to time to learn the game, learn how we play and we’re not going to have make amendments to suit him.”