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By ARU Media Unit
Australian Men’s Sevens coach Michael O’Connor and his team are ready for the challenge of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, after arriving in Moscow, Russia, earlier this week.
The tournament runs 28-30 June at Moscow’s Big Sports Arena in the Luzhniki Olympic Complex, with the Australians playing just one pool game, against Spain, on day one.
Day two will see the Australians take on Tunisia and France. Day three features the knockout stages of the tournament.
The Australians will be hoping to improve on their last showing at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai, where they lost the Plate final to Scotland.
O’Connor said he expected an intense three days of competition in Moscow and that his players were looking forward to taking the field after weeks of preparation.
“The players are very excited, they’re very keen to be a part of it,” O’Connor said.
“It’s a really great experience for everyone to be over here, I don’t think any of us have been to Moscow before so it’s very exciting.”
O’Connor’s squad is an exciting one, featuring three current Super Rugby players, four members of Australia’s 2010 silver medal-winning Commonwealth Games side and two players from the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens side.
From the Super Rugby ranks are NSW Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley and scrumhalf Matt Lucas and Queensland Reds winger Luke Morahan.
All three have prior Sevens experience. Foley captained the Commonwealth Games side in 2010 and scored 266 points in his 16 tournaments for Australia.
Morahan was a member of Australia’s 2009 World Cup efforts and was also in the 2010 Commonwealth Games side.
Lucas only spent a season with the Australian Sevens side, but was an integral member of the squad and kicked the crucial conversion in his side’s Cup win over Samoa in Tokyo in 2012.
The squad features ample other experience, including Sevens scoring phenomenon James Stannard, who has tallied an enormous 478 points in just 12 appearances for Australia, and captain Ed Jenkins who was part of both the 2009 World Cup squad and the 2010 Commonwealth Games success.
Australia has limited recent experience against its opponents in Pool A, but O’Connor was wary of the challenge presented by all three, especially in the added pressure of a World Cup.
“They’ll all be very well prepared, as will we, and it’s a huge occasion, so we are not underestimating anyone,” O’Connor said.
“All of these teams are capable of beating top teams and they have in the past.”
Spain and Australia met twice on the World Series last season, trading results, with the Europeans claiming a 24-14 win in Las Vegas and Australia defeating them 42-14 in Glasgow.
Australia and France have also traded results, with two wins each last season. France won the first two encounters, 7-0 in Dubai and 31-5 in South Africa. Australia claimed the most recent wins, 31-7 in Tokyo and 35-12 in London.
Australia and Tunisia have not met recently, as the African nation is not a regular on the World Series. Their last encounter was in a Bowl quarter-final in South Africa in 2008, which Australia won 33-21.
Australia finished the IRB Sevens World Series ranked eighth overall, highest in their World Cup pool, followed by France in ninth and Spain in 15th. Tunisia did not compete in any event on the World Series last season.
Australia’s best finish in a World Series event last season was second to New Zealand in the final event in London in May, while France also placed second in South Africa to the host nation. Spain’s best finish last season was seventh in Australia.
While international Sevens can be an incredibly unpredictable sport, O’Connor’s message for his team was simple.
“We’ve got to be on our game and we’ve got to be ruthless from the first kick-off,” O’Connor said.
The Australian Men’s Sevens face Spain at 12:30am (AEST) on Saturday 29 June, followed by Tunisia at 5:56pm (AEST) and France at 12:10am (AEST) on Sunday 30 June. All three matches will be streamed live at www.irb.com. The final day of the tournament will be streamed live on www.irb.com and broadcast live on Fox Sports 3HD.
Australian Men’s Sevens Rugby World Cup Sevens squad
Northern Suburbs, NSW
Canberra Royals, ACT
NSW Waratahs, Super Rugby
University of Queensland, QLD
Queanbeyan Whites, NSW
Ed Jenkins (c)
Sydney University, NSW
Queensland Reds, Super Rugby
Gold Coast, QLD
Avoca Beach, NSW
Australian Men’s Sevens Rugby World Cup Sevens staff
Strength and conditioning coach