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By Emma Greenwood (goldcoast.com.au)
RUGBY Sevens captain Ed Jenkins believes halting the player drain within the Australian squad will lift their consistency in this season's IRB world series.
For the first time in several years, the Australians head into the world series with a stable squad after losing few players in the off-season.
Sevens has been seen as a pathway to a Super Rugby contract in Australia for several years and while Michael O'Connor's team will lose Matt Lucas to the Waratahs after the Gold Coast world series opener in just over a fortnight, it has retained most of the players that took it to a sixth-placed series finish last season.
"That's definitely why I think we've struggled a bit in previous years," said Jenkins, who visited Skilled Park earlier this week to promote the Gold Coast-Fever Pitch tournament on October 13-14.
"You have a good season -- 2010 would be a great example, we had a great season and then went on to get silver at the Commonwealth Games -- and then the following year we lost about 10 of our players.
"It's been hard to retain players year after year but we've obviously done that this year.
"We've brought in a few new guys but the basis of our squad is pretty much the same, so that's definitely going to help our cause this year."
While the 15-man game is still seen as the pinnacle through Super Rugby and the Wallabies, that is set to change with Sevens to make its Olympic debut in Rio in 2016.
And with the London Games now over, the Olympic spotlight is already on the shorter form of the sport.
"It's very exciting, it's definitely in the back of everyone's minds at the moment," Jenkins said.
"We're only four years out, so everyone's working towards that.
"We've got a World Cup this year as well, in 2013, and then the Commonwealth Games (in 2014), so there's a lot on but the chance of going on to Rio is obviously a huge incentive for our players at the moment."
At 26, Jenkins is unsure whether he'll be in Rio in four years' time.
"I'm taking it year by year at the moment. This year my focus is on having a good year within the IRB world series and then we've got that World Cup in Moscow in 2013, so that's where my goals are set at the moment.
"But then only around the corner from that there's a Commonwealth Games to be involved in and from there, there's only two years to the Olympics.
"It's only small steps at the moment, year by year, but it's definitely in the back of my mind."
For now, Jenkins' focus is firmly on helping Australia to a jump start on the Gold Coast.
But with defending champions Fiji in their pool, it's not going to be easy.
'It's not the easiest pool, Fiji, of course and Scotland and Tonga, as well," Jenkins said.
"If we can have a great start on the Saturday and then build hopefully towards a big game against Fiji, we'll get some good results.
"I'm confident the guys will be able to get the job done against Scotland and Tonga early on and Fiji is the big one of the day."
09 MARCH 2014
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