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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Rugby Sevens coach Michael O’Connor has plucked West Harbour Sevens standout Sam Latunipulu out of relative obscurity to join his new-look squad for the Adelaide and Hong Kong legs of the IRB Sevens World Series.
Latunipulu, who represented Australia in the U20s last year, impressed O’Connor at the recent Kiama Sevens tournament, where his West Harbour side bagged the prized scalp of the Aussie Spirit and then went on to claim the tournament with a last-minute win over Eastern Surburbs in the final.
“Mick chased me down after we beat the Aussie Sevens in Kiama and asked me to come and join the Australian squad,” Latunipulu said.
“He came and found me right before the final and I’m sure it made me play even better.
“We won the final after the buzzer with a late try.
“From what I’ve seen, the boys have been doing really well in the IRB Series and to get the chance to join them in time for the home tournament in Adelaide is really exciting.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”
Latunipulu, 20, is one of three injury-enforced changes to O’Connor’s side, who recorded their best result in over two years when they won through to the Las Vegas Sevens Cup semi-finals last month, only to be beaten by eventual champions Samoa.
Leading try-scorer Clinton Sills (ostio pubis), Brian Sefanaia (cruciate ligament) and Bernard Foley (foot) will miss out on the March 19-21 Adelaide event and also the iconic Hong Kong Sevens (March 26-29).
Alongside Latunipulu, Ed Stubbs will make his IRB Series debut in Adelaide and Dominic Shipperley, who competed during the New Zealand leg, returns to the squad.
Australia are closing in on fourth-placed England (50) on the IRB Sevens World Series standings after earning a season-high 16 points in Las Vegas to take their tally to 46 after four events.
New Zealand, who claimed the opening two events in Dubai and South Africa, are on top of the table with 84 points but Samoa (70) have cut the gap to 14 points after winning the Las Vegas tournament. Pacific Island heavyweights Fiji (68)- who won the NZ event - are just a further two points back in third.
Australian Squad for Adelaide and Hong Kong: Patrick McCutcheon (captain), Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, Tala Gray, James Stannard, Sam Latunipulu, Robbie Coleman, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Ed Stubbs, Kimami Sitauti, Dominic Shipperley, Jacob Taylor.
Players from the Qantas Australian Women's Sevens program visited the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick on Thursday to bring some needed festive cheer to sick children.