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By ARU Media Unit
Coming off the back of a tournament win in Tokyo, Qantas Men’s Sevens coach Michael O’Connor is confident his side is on the right track, as it continues to build the necessary depth and experience to consistently win tournaments on the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Prior to departing for the Northern hemisphere the squad will take advantage of an international exhibition game this Sunday against trans-Tasman rival New Zealand as they put the finishing touches on their preparation for the final two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
The 3:00pm game will feature as a curtain raiser to the HSBC Waratahs versus Crusaders Round 10 FxPro Super Rugby clash and is something O’Connor believes will only benefit his side.
“It’s a good opportunity to play an international match and get some more game time,” O’Connor said.
“The opportunities for international competition outside of the HSBC Sevens World Series are few and far between, so it’s great to be able to play and to do so in front of an FxPro Super Rugby crowd.
“It will be good for our boys to get a game against the current HSBC Sevens World Series leaders and possibly the best Rugby Sevens team in the world.
“It’s also a great chance to get more exposure for the exciting, fast-paced Olympic sport.
“I’d encourage everyone to make sure they get to Allianz Stadium early on Sunday to cheer on our Aussie guys and enjoy a great game of Rugby Sevens.”
With the team set to depart on Sunday evening for the final two rounds of the 2011/12 Series O’Connor today announced three changes to the squad that brought home the Tokyo Sevens tournament Cup earlier this month.
In a common theme for this season, injury has forced O’Connor’s hand, with Tom English, Greg Jeloudev and Dan Yakopo ruled out. However, the injuries have opened the door for Lewis Holland, Solomoni Rasolea and Ed Stubbs to return from injuries that ruled them out earlier in the season.
“The guys returning are all front-line players, they’ve just been injured,” O’Connor said.
“All three are real competitors and they’ll bring some more leadership to the field.”
Rasolea returns to the travelling 12 after making his debut at the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch in November, 2011 before being ruled out of competition following an injury in Dubai. Stubbs’ last tournament was in Las Vegas in February.
Meanwhile, in a significant boost for the youthful squad, 19-year-old Lewis Holland has recovered from a hamstring injury that forced him out of contention in the lead up to Hong Kong, after initially being named in the squad. Glasgow will be Holland’s 11th tournament on the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Earlier this year, O’Connor had been forced to bring inexperienced players into the fold to help fill injury voids and while expanding the depth of Australian Sevens, it also affected the team’s performances in the middle of the season.
But now, with a larger and more experienced player base, O’Connor is starting the reap the rewards, as seen in Tokyo, with the side’s first Cup win since May 2010.
“There’s no substitute for playing tournaments,” O’Connor said.
“The bulk of this squad now have been there from the start of the season, which has allowed us to build experience, we’re fitter and we’re tournament hardened now.
“We’ve had issues with injuries this season and we’ve had to use a lot of players, but the squad is starting to build familiarity and they want to do well.”
Following the win in Tokyo, the Qantas Men’s Sevens were seeded first for the Glasgow Sevens, named in Pool A alongside England, United States and Kenya.
Australia faced both the English and Americans in Tokyo, defeating the United States before a clinical display saw them victorious over England 33-12 in the Cup semi-final. Their last game against Kenya was a 12-7 loss in the Bowl final at the Wellington Sevens in February.
While O’Connor admits Pool A isn’t the toughest draw in Glasgow, he knows not to underestimate any side in the unpredictable world of Sevens.
“It’s not the pool of death,” O’Connor said.
“England will be tough and probably seeking retribution for what we did to them in Tokyo.
“There’s really no such thing as an easy pool, but I don’t stress about the pools. If you’re good enough, you get through.”
The Qantas Men’s Sevens squad for Glasgow and London will assemble at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen from 26 to 28 April.
They will then head to Allianz Stadium on Sunday, 29 April, for the international exhibition game against the New Zealand Sevens side at 3:00pm. The trans-Tasman rivalry will then continue when the HSBC Waratahs take on the Crusaders, kicking off at 4:10pm.
Qantas Men’s Sevens Squad for Glasgow/London:
Qantas Men’s Sevens side to take on New Zealand:
Australian Rugby Sevens proudly supported by the Australian Institute of Sport
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