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By ARU Media Unit
The Australian Men’s Sevens will enter their third tournament of the HSBC Sevens World Series 2011/12, in as many weeks, with a new-look squad after injury forced coach Michael O’Connor to make two changes following their Plate Final win in Dubai last weekend over New Zealand.
HSBC Sevens World Series debutants Lindsay Crook [Grade 3 MCL] and Solomoni “Junior” Rasolea [ankle injury] have joined the already-injured duo of Jacob Taylor and Damon Anderson on the Aussie’s injury list.
The pair were ruled out following Australia’s quarter-final defeat last weekend at the hands of Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch winners and current HSBC Sevens World Series leaders, Fiji.
Former Australian Under 20s representative Bill Meakes has been called in to the squad in Port Elizabeth ahead of the third round, with Dubai’s 13th man – Jo Lalagevasi – promoted to the 12 who will kick-off their tournament on Friday against Kenya.
The Australian’s will also face off against Canada and home-side South Africa in Pool C on day-one of the final tournament before the HSBC Sevens World Series breaks for Christmas.
Lalagevasi’s position as injury-cover for the 13th man spot has been taken by 2011 Australian Schoolboys representative, Will Miller.
The 18-year-old Miller, who claimed the Golden Boot Award for Man of the Match in the Schoolboys Test against New Zealand earlier this year, was drafted into O’Connor’s squad after a strong performance in the Invitational Men’s Tournament in Dubai last weekend – which ran as the layer underneath the second-leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Miller was in Dubai as part of the “Sydney Spiders”, who consist of Sydney Premier Club players, alongside former Australian Schoolboys and Sevens representative Luke Milton.
If needed to take the field as a result of any further injuries, the 18-year old would become the 17th player used by O’Connor in just three weeks.
O’Connor, however, was adamant the changes weren’t the main focus for a young team keen to sign-off the 2011 calendar year with success.
“It really isn’t a major disruption,” O’Connor said speaking from Port Elizabeth.
“The team showed good improvement in Dubai, after our fourth place finish on the Gold Coast, with wins over South Africa and New Zealand.
“On that second day, against South Africa, we were down to 10 men so these replacements are warmly welcomed by the whole squad.
“We’ve had our best ever start to a World Series, so this is a good opportunity to gain some momentum and consolidate our position towards the top of the table before we break for the new year.”
Australian Men’s Sevens captain, Ed Jenkins, who along with Jessie Parahi, are the only players in the Australian squad to have played at least 10-games on the IRB World Circuit, echoed his coaches comments on the new-look squad.
“It is obviously a very young and inexperienced side, although we have shown great improvements over the past few weeks – from match to match – and hopefully we can make even more this weekend,” Jenkins said.
"Most importantly, the coaching staff and I are happy with where we are at as a unit.
“I think we let ourselves down last weekend, in the games against Fiji and particularly Wales, and made our cross over game hard by not being able to put the Welsh away in a game I believe we should have won.
“If we can pick up where we left off against New Zealand and South Africa in the final two matches in Dubai, I think we’ll have a great weekend.”
The Australian’s are currently ranked sixth on the HSBC Sevens World Series table, however sit just a point behind host nation South Africa as well as New Zealand and France, four points behind second placed England and 11-points behind Series leaders Fiji.
For all the fixtures of the third-leg of the 2011/12 HSBC Sevens World Series in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, visit www.irbsevens.com
For Player Profiles of the Australian Squad visit www.rugby.com.au/sevens
Qantas Australian Sevens player Shannon Walker will play his first tournament in over a year when he lines up for the National Indigenous side at this weekend’s National Sevens Championships in Narrabeen, Sydney.