- Hopper always confident he could make it to the top
- Centre returns home to club his father captained
Photo: Getty Images
Matt Hopper has reflected on the "whirlwind" first season in the top flight that has earned him an England Saxons call-up after making just 11 first team appearances for Harlequins.
The blond-haired centre was signed from Championship side Cornish Pirates last summer, starting the season behind George Lowe in the Quins’ midfield pecking order.
He didn’t feature in the side until appearing as a replacement in the LV=Cup against Sale Sharks in October before Lowe’s ankle injury opened the way for a first start against Gloucester in the Heineken Cup in November. He scored in that game and has been there ever since.
His Saxons’ selection for Saturday's match against trhe O2 Ireland Wolfhounds at Sandy Park makes for a happy homecoming.
Hopper was born in Exeter, his father Keith captained the Chiefs in the 1960s and Matt played for the Chiefs’ junior sides and then for local club Wessex before his rugby journey took him to Cardiff University, Manly, Plymouth Albion and the Pirates. He’ll be able to celebrate his 27th birthday with his nearest and dearest on the day after the game
"I’m obviously really happy to get the call and very excited about joining up with the Saxons,” said Hopper. "It’s been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few months. I’ll have a lot of family and friends watching and playing at Exeter is a nice bonus for me. Just to be part of it is really something."
At 26, Hopper might be classed as a late developer but he always believed he could make it to the top. He starred in the Pirates side beaten in the Championship Play-offs the seized his chance to show his blend of pace, footwork and handling skills measured up in the Aviva Premiership.
Photo: Getty Images
"I’ve always had confidence in my own ability and what I could do," he said.
"I’ve been lucky in as much that an unfortunate injury to George Lowe opened the door for me to get a run of games. I’m very grateful for Quins for giving me the chance and I hope I’ve repaid them over the last couple of months.
"Last year was a good one at Pirates, then I had a chat with Conor (O’Shea) and Tofty (Mark Mapletoft) and they told me about Harlequins and their plans. They sold it pretty well and Quins are playing a really exciting brand of rugby.
"So far there have been plenty of highlights, making my first start in the Heineken Cup against Gloucester, playing at Twickenham in front of 80,000 and winning away at Toulouse was the most special. I’m sure it’ll go down in the club’s history."