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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Qantas Men’s Sevens coach, Michael O’Connor has named a well-balanced 12-man squad for this weekend’s Gold Coast Sevens Fever Pitch tournament.
The 12-man squad is one of the strongest and most experienced named by O’Connor since taking the coaching reins and features two local stars, Luke Morahan and Shannon Walker.
For the second year in a row Ed Jenkins will lead the Australians in the first round of the HSBC Sevens World Series and will be joined by Allan Fa’alava’au, Matt Lucas, Pama Fou, Jesse Parahi, Sean McMahon, Lewis Holland, Jordan Tuapou, Will Miller, Jacob Taylor and the two local Gold Coasters, Walker and Morahan.
O’Connor says he’s happy with how selections played out even though they caused him some headaches.
“The side we’ve selected is a well-balanced, experienced team,” O’Connor said.
“None of the 12 are making their debut this weekend, which is a real change to last year.
“When you look at sides we put on the part last season I think we had at least one debutant in every tournament of the nine leg series.
“This weekend my selection headaches were caused by how many guys were fit and in-form, which is certainly a nice change.
“While I’m very happy with the squad we’ve selected I do feel for Damon Anderson and Greg Jeloudev who have missed out.
“Both of them have been in great form and they played very well at the Noosa tournament last week but unfortunately we can only take 12 into the weekend.”
Two of the big draw cards for fans on the weekend will be the inclusion of Gold Coast locals, Shannon Walker and Luke Morahan.
In 2011 Walker missed out on making his international Rugby Sevens debut on the Gold Coast due to injury, while Morahan was tied up with the Queensland Reds.
This year Walker is fit and Morahan, who has just returned from Argentina after being called into the Qantas Wallabies squad, is back in a Sevens jersey for his first HSBC Sevens World Series since 2010.
The inclusion of both speedsters is something that O’Connor is excited about.
“I’d pay money to come and watch Shannon and Luke play, they are two really exciting young players,” O’Connor said.
“Luke is a very good mover, he has good speed and a good understanding of Sevens.
“While he hasn’t been playing regularly he picks it up very quickly and he has been able to integrate in to the team seamlessly.
“Shannon is the same and if both of them have a good tournament then Australia will have a good tournament.”
After returning from Argentina on Tuesday, Morahan, jumped straight back into training with the Qantas Men’s Sevens.
O’Connor says he’s been impressed by the way Luke and the rest of the squad have handled it.
“There’s been no star gazing by the other guys, asking him how the Wallabies were or how Argentina was, which is good,” O’Connor said.
“Luke is a guy, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and the guys like him.
“He has fitted in really well, trained hard and it’s been good to have him in the squad.”
The Qantas Men’s Sevens will enter Gold Coast Sevens Fever Pitch 2012 having not won on Australian soil in a decade.
The 10-year drought is something O’Connor is eager to rectify.
“It is certainly something that I’d like to do this year, among a number of other things,” O’Connor said.
“While it isn’t something that keeps me up at night I do think we’ve got a lot of improving to do from last year and it would certainly be nice to break the decade long drought.
“Ten years is a long time, but when you look at other tournaments like Hong Kong where we haven’t won in 25 years and the fact that South Africa have never won there, then a decade doesn’t seem too bad.
“Looking forward though I’m really happy with the side, we’ve had a good prep and we’ve got some really good experience in the squad.
“We finished fourth last year, which was probably flattering to us because I don’t think it was a great reflection of where we were as a group.
“In regards to where we’ll finish this year, all I can say is we are a better side than last year.”
With every side focussed on getting their 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series off to the perfect start O’Connor believes the day one draw will throw up at least one upset.
‘There are no easy games this weekend, every pool is tough and that is one of the great attractions of these kinds of tournaments,” O’Connor says.
“Look at Scotland, who we’ve drawn in Pool B, they’ve got a new experienced coach and they are really focused on improving.
“The Americans look really fit and focussed and the fact that they’ve got a few local tournaments under their belt means they’ll hit the ground running.
“I believe on day one you are going to see an upset.
“Whether it’s one of the new core teams, Portugal, Spain or Canada someone will throw up a result that no one is expecting.”
The Qantas Men’s Sevens have been drawn in Pool B, alongside Tonga, Scotland and last year’s champions Fiji.
The Australians first game will be against Tonga at approximately 1:04pm. They’ll then face Scotland around 4:20pm before wrapping up round robin stage with the last match of the day against last year’s champions Fiji about 7:46pm.
Gold Coast Sevens Fever Pitch will be broadcast live across the country on Fox Sports 2HD and 2 from 10:25am on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October.
Qantas Men's Sevens Team for Gold Coast Sevens Fever Pitch 2012:
Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch is proudly brought to the Gold Coast through a partnership between ARU, the Queensland Government through Events Queensland and Gold Coast City Council.