The Aussie Sevens’ ‘new kids on the block’ impressed in their opening gambit on the world stage in Dubai, but will be keen to improve on that effort this weekend in Cape Town.
Four of the five debutants Australia took into the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series last week have retained their places in the squad for round two.
Coach Andy Friend has bolstered the line-up with strength and experience, calling in Jesse Parahi and Stephan van der Walt, to replace the departing Pat McCutcheon and Conor Mitchell.
In Dubai, the young Aussie team finished a creditable fifth, winning five out of its six matches – the single loss being the crucial quarter-final which separates the top four contenders from the rest of the pack on Day Two.
Head Coach Andy Friend is hoping to build on that tournament experience for his newer players.
“The team showed great ability and character to finish in fifth after a disappointing loss in the Quarter Finals in Dubai.
“With five debutants last week, we showed the depth of our young talent we have coming through this squad and we are looking forward to getting back out onto the field in Cape Town,” - Andy Friend
Sam Caslick, Charlie Taylor, Mick Adams and Simon Kennewell are the four who get to step up again, having impressed Andy Friend with their strong performances, coping well under the pressure of elite tournament play against the world’s best. Tim Anstee, who also put in a strong showing, will step to the bench as 13th man.
Adams put his hand up early declaring his potential in this team when he scored his first World Series try in the opening game against Japan, following it up with a double in Australia’s 28-0 dominance of France in the second game.
Also impressive in looking for the try line were Simon Kennewell – getting on the board with his career first try after exploiting a lacklustre French defence – and 21 year old Charlie Taylor who racked up a double against a powerful Kenya.
Henry Hutchison performed well again with glimpses of the explosive talent he showed across the 2015/2016 series, which culminated in being awarded as the World Rugby Sevens Rookie of the Year.
Given a slightly different role to start this series, due to the absence of Holland and Porch, Hutchison played as first receiver rather than out on the wing, although it did not stop him from adding to his impressive 27 try total from last season.
He played with his trademark dogged attack and determination, showing a maturity that belies his 19 years, and the coach will be looking for him to do more of the same in Cape Town.
The addition of big man Jesse Parahi brings in size, strength and experience to bolster Australia’s efforts at the breakdown and support the leadership group on the field, lead by tournament captain Sam Myers and the experienced heads of Jenkins and Stannard.
Parahi returns to the squad after time out with an ankle injury post Rio, which saw him miss lead up tournaments at Central Coast Sevens and the Oceania Championships as well as Dubai last week.
Former Brumby Stephan van der Walt returns to the side having debuted on the sevens circuit just 12 months ago in Dubai. Andy Friend will be looking to the big playmaker to build on the form that saw him score five tries in a handful of appearances last season.
With this selection, Friend has realigned the balance in the team to favour experience which will play a major role in the task of backing up in the second week of the sevens circuit schedule.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens Squad, Cape Town
1. Henry Hutchison
2. Jesse Parahi
3. Sam Myers (c)
4. Alex Gibbon
5. James Stannard
6. Sam Caslick
7. Simon Kennewell
8. Stephan Van der Walt
9. Ed Jenkins
10. Michael Adams
11. Charlie Taylor
12. Boyd Killingworth
13th man. Tim Anstee
Australia v USA, 9.27pm (AEDT), Saturday 10 December
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Australia v South Africa, 4.56am (AEDT), Sunday 11 December