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By ARU Media Unit
The Qantas Men’s Sevens have set their sights on a more consistent performance as they take to the field this weekend in the fifth round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas.
The Australians will be hoping to improve their season-best finish in Wellington last weekend, when a 22-7 win over Scotland saw them claim the Plate championship.
Qantas Men’s Sevens coach Michael O’Connor said his team was looking forward to building on last weekend’s performance.
“I thought we played some really good Sevens last weekend so we’re just looking forward to having another crack,” O’Connor said.
With an undefeated run in the pool stage of the Wellington Sevens, the Australians came unstuck in their Cup quarter-final against New Zealand on day two, something O’Connor hopes to improve on.
“The quarter final has been our hurdle in recent times,” O’Connor said.
“We didn’t play our best game on the weekend against NZ, but I’m seeing improvements in the team so that’s promising.”
The Qantas Men’s Sevens will face Samoa, Spain and the United States in pool play, with history in their favour on all accounts.
The Australians are seeded second in their pool behind Samoa, who are ranked third in the World Series, and ahead of USA and Spain who are both ranked 14th. Australia is ranked 10th with five rounds left to play.
Australia have won all but two of their last 22 games against hosts USA, with their most recent clash a 19-12 win to Australia in Dubai, in the second round of the current series.
They met five times in the 2011-12 HSBC Sevens World Series, with all matches going the Australian’s way: 22-7, 19-14, 15-0, 29-14.
The last time the United States beat Australia in the World Series was during the 2008-2009 series, when the hosts won 17-12 during pool play in San Diego.
“The USA are getting closer and closer, they drew with England last week who won the tournament,” O’Connor said.
“They’re playing at home and they’ve been living and playing together for close to 12 months now so they’ve definitely improved.”
The Australians have had a strong run against defending Las Vegas Sevens champions Samoa in recent times, defeating them twice already this season and taking the honours in two out of three occasions last season.
Before the 2012-13 World Series even kicked off, Australia and Samoa had already met in a heated affair at North Sydney Oval for the final of the Oceania Sevens Championships, a Rugby World Cup Sevens qualifying event.
Australia had already beaten the Samoans 22-7 in pool play before a physical final saw the hosts emerge victorious 12-7, ensuring the Australians qualified for this year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in Russia.
The Qantas Men’s Sevens and the Samoans also battled it out fiercely during the 2011-12 season, where they met in the Cup final of the Tokyo Sevens.
Australia narrowly edged out the Samoans 28-26 thanks to a last-minute try to captain Ed Jenkins and a sideline conversion by Matt Lucas.
Their other two meetings during the 2011-12 season saw Australia win one 14-12 and Samoa the other, 19-15.
“Samoa were particularly strong in the last tournament and they traditionally go well in America,” O’Connor said.
“They’ve got a big following over here. I’d say they get the best support outside of the American team and they’re the defending champions so they’ll be tough.”
Australia have little recent knowledge of Spain, with just one meeting in the last two World Series.
While Australia won that match 17-12 during the London round of the 2011-12 World Series, O’Connor said they could not be underestimated.
“Spain are certainly not an easy beat,” O’Connor said.
“They’re definitely a threat and they’ve justified their inclusion in the World Series. They’ve been very competitive.”
Just one change has been made to the side which claimed the Plate in Wellington, with Cam Clark being brought in for the injured Allan Fa’alava’au.
Two other Australian faces will also be heavily involved in the tournament, with Anthony Moyes (NSW) and Matt O’Brien (QLD) both on referee duties.
Australia face USA at 1:34pm (AEDT) and Spain 4:08pm (AEDT) on Saturday 9 February. They close their pool play against Samoa at 8:00am (AEDT) on Sunday 10 February.
Day three of the Las Vegas Sevens will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 2HD on Monday 11 February from 4am to 10am.