Hooper's sevens switch confirmed in hunt for Olympic berth

Wallabies great Michael Hooper will chase a berth at the Paris Olympics, after his long-rumoured switch to the Australia sevens program was confirmed on Thursday morning.

Hooper will officially join coach John Manenti's squad in January, with an eye on making his HSBC SVNS Series debut at Australia's home tournament in Perth later in the month.

It will be the first time the world circuit - which has been reshaped for its upcoming season -- has come to Perth, with Hooper's potential debut to add further interest to the Optus Stadium event.

Talk of a switch to the game's shorter form had swirled since Hooper announced he would be departing the Waratahs at the end of the 2023 Super Rugby season.

But the former Wallabies captain knows he has plenty to do to earn a spot in Australia's squad for Paris, with Manenti having built a strong core group of players who earned automatic selection for the Olympics by finishing fifth in last year's World Series.

"Firstly, I'd like to thank John Manenti and Scott Bowen (National Performance Manager - sevens) for the opportunity to join the program in what is a massively exciting year with the Olympics on the horizon," Hooper said.

"The transition is something I have thought a lot about and I'm extremely motivated by the challenge of playing sevens and trying to earn my way into this team.

"I've started making a few changes to my training in preparation and can't wait to get started in January."

After more than a decade of rugby at Test level, Hooper admits he has a lot to learn in a short space of time, particularly given it has been 14 years since he last competed in the game's shorter form.

"I've only played one tournament, for Manly in Kiama, that was in 2009 I think, with my brother and a couple of mates there. So it was some time ago and I'm going to have to get my head around the game," Hooper said.

"Not only is there the physical aspect that is going to take some working, but certainly the game sense, the game understanding, and the guys in here are already giving little tips and pointers, but I'm going to need to lean on them a fair bit to get upskilled."

Hooper made his return from a calf injury in the Barbarians' loss to Wales a fortnight go, after he was controversially overlooked for the Rugby World Cup by Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.

Australia failed to advance past the pool stage for the first time in Wallabies' history, with Jones later declaring Hooper, and playmakers Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley, had been overlooked because they were no longer the "right role models" for the World Cup campaign, before Jones and Rugby Australia parted ways a few days later.

But Manenti is in no doubt about what Hooper can offer his sevens squad and is keen to start working with the veteran back-rower to expedite his transition.

"Michael is an outstanding rugby player and a great leader, so we're thrilled to have him join our program," Manenti said.

"We know he's got a strong skillset for sevens and a big engine and we're looking forward to helping him transition quickly to the format.

"He is a player with big-game experience and to have someone like Michael in our set-up can be a point of difference for us next year."

Hooper is not the only big-name Test player chasing an Olympic dream, with France superstar Antoine Dupont also expected to announce a switch to sevens next year. Reports suggest Dupont will step away from club Toulouse and also sit out next year's Six Nations as he attempts to make the switch and win a place in Les Bleus' squad for their home Olympic Games.

The new-look eight-stop SVNS Series kicks off in Dubai next month, before moving to Cape Town and then onto Perth.