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By ARU Media Unit
Heading into the second-last round of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Qantas Men’s Sevens coach Michael O’Connor and his side have arrived in Glasgow, Scotland as the in-form side following their tournament victory in Tokyo last month that saw them return home with their first Cup since London 2010.
While the win was a boost and right reward for his hard-working young side, O’Connor knows they still have much to prove and will look to improve on their last two appearances in Scotland, where they finished Cup runners up in 2010 and 2011.
“It was a good win in Tokyo. The players showed a lot of character and desire with their backs to the wall. It was a real test of courage,” O’Connor said.
“Last year in Scotland it was really disappointing that we had an almost an insurmountable lead and lost it right on the bell.
“Generally Scotland has been good to us, the last two years we’ve played in the final, so it has been a good tournament for us.”
His captain, Ed Jenkins reflects the sentiment, feeling his team can push one step further than they have in the last two years in Scotland.
“The last two years we’ve come away runners up,” Jenkins said.
“We always seem to perform well in the last two tournaments of the season.
“Last year wasn’t the result we wanted, but I’m sure we can turn it around this year and do one better.”
Following a strong start to the HSBC Sevens World Series, in which the Qantas Men’s Sevens finished fourth at the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch, injury and youth have hampered the side during the middle stages of the tournament, but O’Connor’s insistence on blooding young players and building depth paid dividends in Tokyo.
Now, with a much larger player base than what he had with at the start of the season, O’Connor is somewhat spoilt for choice in his selections, however injuries to a number of the victorious Tokyo squad have once again forced O’Connor’s hand at the selection table.
Seasoned Sevens youngster Lewis Holland is set to return to the pitch this weekend alongside Ed Stubbs and Solomoni Rasolea who replace Dan Yakapo, Greg Jelodouv and Tom English.
Unlike earlier in the season the new members of the squad, Holland, Stubbs and Rasolea, all bring with them experience at the top level, a fact that pleases O’Connor.
“One of the things we’ve been focussed on is getting game time into our younger blokes and building experience,” O’Connor said.
“There is no substitute for game time, it is something that can’t be replicated on the training paddock.
“While we’ve had to make three changes from Tokyo due to injury the guys coming all have experience on the big stage, which is exactly what we’ve been working towards.”
The Qantas Men’s Sevens enter the Glasgow Sevens with 84 series points, ranked sixth overall, immediately behind Samoa, with 101 points.
Following the win in Tokyo, the Qantas Men’s Sevens were seeded first for the Glasgow Sevens, named alongside England, United States and Kenya.
Their most recent encounters with England and the United States came in Tokyo, where they beat the USA in pool play and won a thrilling Cup semi-final over England 33-12. They last faced the Kenyans in Wellington, where they lost 12-7 in a tightly contested Bowl final.
Day one of the tournament will see the Aussies square up against the USA first at 9:42pm (AEST) on 5 May, before facing Kenya at 12:48am (AEST) 6 May and England at 4:21am (AEST) 6 May. The second and final day features the playoff component of the tournament, with the first match kicking off at 7:30pm (AEST) on 6 May.
Following the tournament, the Qantas Men’s Sevens will head to London, England for the final round of the HSBC Sevens World Series 2011-2012 season.
Coverage of the Glasgow Sevens will appear on Fox Sports 3HD and 3 on Tuesday, 8 May from 7:30pm to 10:30pm.