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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Sevens captain Patrick McCutcheon believes Kenya pose the biggest threat to the national side claiming top honours at the two-day Darwin Hottest Sevens rugby tournament starting on Saturday.
McCutcheon says his team, playing as the ‘Aussie Spirit’ during the non-IRB tournament, will be looking to improve on the form which saw Australia emerge as Plate Final victors in Dubai last month.
Kenya (5th) are just ahead of Australia (6th) on the IRB Sevens World Series standings and have been one of the form sides during the first two events on the eight-leg schedule.
McCutcheon says Kenya are the team to beat at the invitational event in the Top End.
“Winning the Plate Final in Dubai was a great experience and that’s given us some good stepping stones to build on for future tournaments, so hopefully we can continue and improve on that sort of form this weekend in Darwin,” McCutcheon said.
“I believe Kenya is participating up there (as the ‘Wakimbizi Sevens’), they’ve got quite an experienced squad with some of their players being involved in their program for three or four seasons.
“I think they’ll be our toughest competition but also you can’t underrate any of the Pacific Island teams, they’re always strong, physical, fast blokes so they’ll be tough competition as well.”
The Aussie Spirit have been seeded third behind Kenya, with last year’s winner from Fiji, the ‘South Sea Drifters’ ranked first at the $65,000 event - which is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
The Australian Women’s Sevens team are the top seed in the women’s draw and boast three World Cup-winning Wallaroos in their ranks.
Captain Cheryl Soon will lead the ‘Amazons’ which also stars Qantas Wallabies flyhalf Matt Giteau’s sister, Kristy - but they are without IRB Women’s Rugby Personality of the Year and Australian Sevens Player of the Year Debbie Hodgkinson, who will miss the tournament through injury.
Last year ‘The Zonnators’ featuring Soon, Alex Hargreaves, Jamie Blazejewski and Ash Hewson won the Darwin tournament and in the process uncovered the talent of Cobie-Jane Morgan, who went straight to the Wallaroos squad in her first year.
Australian Sevens player Jacob Taylor has been included in the NT Mosquitoes side, alongside Australian Schoolboys captain Jordan Tuapou and national talent squad members Harry Bergelin and Dylan Taikato-Simpson.
The Australian Sevens and Kenya will remain in Darwin following the tournament for an extended training camp to prepare for the next two stops on the IRB Sevens World Series in Wellington (Feb 5-6) and Las Vegas (Feb 13-14).
The IRB Sevens World Series tournament lands in Adelaide on March 19-21 where the world’s best Sevens teams will compete over three days of intense, fast-paced competition at the prestigious Adelaide Oval. Tickets are on sale now, with admission prices starting at $17 for an adult. Visit www.ticketek.com.au .
Aussie Spirit: Pat McCutcheon (capt), James Stannard, Brian Sefania, Eddie Quirk, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Shaun Foley, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Talalelei Gray, Zack Holmes, Kimami Sitauti, Clinton Sills.
Amazons: Cheryl Soon (capt), Alex Hargreaves, Ash Hewson, Kate Porter, Kristy Giteau, Faryaneh Hayati, Jaime Blazejewski, Lisa Fiaola, Theresa Anderson, Caroline Vakalahi.
Australian Rugby Sevens proudly supported by the Australian Institute of Sport