Australian coach Michael O’Connor has named an exciting new team for the opening leg of the 2011/12 HSBC Sevens World Series with eight debutants joining the ranks for the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens Fever Pitch tournament.
The Australian side will have a core of experience via skipper Ed Jenkins, vice-captain Jacob Taylor and young-guns Greg Jeloudev and Lewis Holland for the event which kicks off on Friday and continues until Saturday night at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast.
O’Connor said the incoming talent now had an opportunity to stake their claim for ongoing international selection after a number of players were unavailable due to injury, including Jesse Parahi and Dan Yakopo.
“This is a really good opportunity for someone new to make a statement,” O’Connor said.
“We’ve had injuries and lost Dan [Yakopo], Jessie [Parahi] and Ed Stubbs, which is unfortunate and it will no doubt place a bigger onus on the experienced campaigners like Ed Jenkins and Jacob Taylor.”
O’Connor, however, is comfortable with his squad heading into the Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament.
“Our preparation, to be honest, has been a lot better than in previous years and I’m actually extremely comfortable with who we have named and where the group is at,” he said.
“There is certainly no substitute for tournament time, with other sides usually a lot more tournament-hardened than us in the opening legs of the World Series, however the group are all very excited and we can overcome that and hit the ground running I’m sure.”
Newly-appointed skipper, Ed Jenkins, re-iterated his coach’s comments.
“We might have a few new names to the Sevens scene, but this group is a talented bunch and one that Mick has chosen on form following a good amount of preparation,” Jenkins said.
“A new tournament, a new kit and a few new names means we are really starting a fresh chapter in the Aussie Sevens history and it is certainly special for myself to be able to lead the group into the opening leg.”
Jenkins, who has now been a regular in the side since 2009, was also confident the side could step up to the challenge that lies ahead in the 16-nation showdown.
“We have full confidence in one another and feel that we can certainly push for this title,” he said.
“We’re at home and having the crowd behind us will be like having an eighth player out there on the field with us. I just can’t wait for it all to begin.”
The young group have had a healthy dose of the shortened form of the game, in the lead up to the tournament at Skilled Park, with the side having travelled to Samoa for the Oceania Sevens, followed by two Queensland based hit-outs at the Noosa and Paradise 7s over successive weekends.
The “Festival of Rugby” will tie up with Fever Pitch this weekend and the young Aussie outfit will be the first national side to play in the already-buzzing State, following last week’s announcement that the Gold Coast had won the rights to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the Gold Coast was still on a high, after the announcement, and the city would put on a great show for the inaugural event.
“The Commonwealth Games announcement has created a great buzz on the Gold Coast, and the Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament will only add to that excitement,” Ms Bligh said.
“What’s more is the tournament will take place at the state-of-the-art stadium at Skilled Park – giving visitors a taste of what to expect when Sevens Rugby is played at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
“Queensland is a mecca for these high profile events and we will continue to pursue new event opportunities to fill hotels, shops and restaurants – supporting the local economy and jobs.
"That is why the Queensland Government, through Events Queensland, is investing in events like this as part of our record $174 million in events across the State over four years.”
Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch will kick off this Friday, November 25, and run over two action-packed days with the opening leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series set to showcase some of the most exciting talent in the world of Rugby.
Australian Sevens team for the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch
1. Ed Jenkins ( c )
2. Jacob Taylor
3. Greg Jeloudev
4. Jordan Tuapou *
5. Danny Routledge *
6. Con Foley *
7. Pama Fou *
8. Lindsay Crook *
9. Damon Anderson *
10. Lewis Holland
11. Sean McMahon *
12. Solomoni Rasolea *
*denotes International Sevens debutant