Australia's Hooper hopes to make the transition from 15-year-old rugby sevens to the Paris Olympics

SYDNEY (AP) — Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is set to make the switch to rugby sevens in a bid to play for Australia at the Paris Olympics, after making strides in the traditional sport.

Hooper has been named in Australia's 13-man squad for next month's Hong Kong Sevens, a regular highlight of the sevens calendar.

The 32-year-old flanker was involved in the Sevens program after missing out on selection for last year's Rugby World Cup squad, but ankle injuries delayed his debut in the shortened format.

„In terms of getting fit on the pitch, it's changed a lot from what I expected in terms of the fitness required to play this game,” Hooper said. “It will be a big step to get on the field and play. It's a different world.”

He has just three rounds of seven World Series to prove he's ready for Olympic selection in July. Hooper, who has played 125 Tests for Australia, including a record number as captain, is not the first Wallabies veteran to try the switch. Blockbusting center Samu Kerevi made Australia's Olympic team for Tokyo, but his playing time was limited due to injuries.

„I'm going to learn as much as anybody when I actually get on the field and see what I can do,” Hooper said of his expectations for Hong Kong.

Australian coach John Manenti said Hooper had worked hard to break into the Sevens squad and „we're all excited to welcome the 'rookie' into the mix.”

„Like any rookie, this will be a learning experience for him and an important starting point for a possible Paris Olympics.”

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Australian men are in Pool A for the April 5-7 Hong Kong tournament against two-time Olympic champions Fiji, 2024 Olympic host France and Canada.

Australian men are fifth in the 2024 World Series, behind Argentina, Ireland and group rivals Fiji and France. The French are coming off a title drought in Los Angeles.

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AP Rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

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