The Australian Sevens team will go to the Asia leg of the HSBC World Series in Hong Kong next week with four changes to the roster from Vancouver.
Jesse Parahi returns after a torrid few months with injury, as do Boyd Killingworth and John Porch.
Young Charlie Taylor also gets another opportunity to impress the coach after the league convert had a good showing in Sydney but missed out on the Las Vegas and Vancouver trip.
These changes for Hong Kong and Singapore add more experience, size and strength to the team while still retaining enough of the youth element, in the form of Anstee, McNamara and Anderson, who have excited fans in the Series so far.
Sam Myers, who had to return home from the USA with an abdominal strain, is still out.
Men’s coach Andy Friend said it was a close call but the big forward just isn’t quite right yet.
“We thought he was going to be right, he trained well, then in one of (this week’s) development games he just couldn’t get to one hundred percent,” he said.
“As we all know the game is one that you can’t play at anything less than one hundred percent. So it isn’t right yet and we’ve had to pull him out of selection.”
Tom Lucas will again take the captaincy duties.
Simon Kennewell is the listed 13th man but, despite having to watch from the sidelines, will be excited to be in Hong Kong, having lived and played rugby there for several years as a child.
The 20 year old has been on tour for every tournament this season and is obviously valued as an ongoing member of the touring squad.
“I think he’s getting better as a sevens player. He’s really developing his skillset for the game and working out what his strengths are,” said Friend.
“The other big thing is off the bench he can cover the forwards, he can cover the backs and he’s got genuine speed, so it’s a luxury for me as a coach to have a bloke like Simon sitting there in the 13th man spot.”
The Aussies are drawn in Pool A with England, Samoa and Korea which is the invitational 16th team for this leg of the series.
While no match is easy in Sevens, Friend is now adamant they need to look past a quarter final finish as the main objective.
“I went into the World Series saying we’d be happy with quarter finals – well we’re not now,” he said.
“Now we’re saying when get into the quarter finals we actually have to win those games and get ourselves into the semis. We’ve got to make sure we take that next step, so that is our focus now.”
Australia has a solid record in Hong Kong, winning the Plate Final (5th) in 2015 and finishing fourth last year with a two point loss to South Africa in the semi-final.
The Aussies will kick off the main event at the Hong Kong Stadium when it takes on Samoa on Friday night.
The second tournament of the Asian leg in the HSBC World Series will be in Singapore, but it is Hong Kong which gets the heart pounding and the adrenalin pumping each year for players and fans alike.
Parahi rates it very highly and cannot wait to return.
“Hong Kong is definitely in my top two tournaments. The atmosphere there is unlike anywhere else – it has such a wonderful mix of a family friendly environment and absolutely at the other end of the spectrum is party-mania,” he said.
With two significant qualifying tournaments and the Hong Kong Tens to support the main event, it promises to be another blockbuster for World Rugby’s prized jewel.
IN: Jesse Parahi, Boyd Killingworth, John Porch, Charlie Taylor
OUT: Tate McDermott, Alex Gibbon, Brandon Quinn, Mick Adams
Qantas Australian Men’s squad HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
13th man: Simon Kennewell
Hong Kong Sevens Pool fixtures
Friday April 7
Australia vs Samoa 8:00pm AEST
Saturday April 8
Australia v South Korea 1:18pm AEST
Australia v England 5:40pm AEST