In Australian Rugby, Sevens is a proven development pathway with a host of talent coming through to Super Rugby and Test level from the “Aussie Thunderbolts” ranks.
Former Australian Sevens captain and Emirates Western Force head coach Richard Graham is a long-time supporter of the seven-man game.
“Certainly the thing about Sevens is, and I’m a big fan of it, it develops a number of your core Rugby skills,” Graham says.
“Your decision making, your support, your tackling, the breakdown, all those areas of your game are under scrutiny.
“The Emirates Western Force has just recruited (2009/10 star) James Stannard, there’s a good example of how playing Sevens in terms of raising your profile and so forth pays off.”
Stannard is one of nine members of Australia’s silver-medal winning Delhi Commonwealth Games team to hold a Super Rugby contract in 2011, while circuit regulars Patrick McCutcheon and Nick Phipps and Lachie Turner won selection on the 2010 Qantas Wallabies Spring Tour of Hong Kong and Europe.
Graham is arguably the most successful Australian Sevens captain (1998-2002) and led his side to victory in Brisbane back in 2002.
After his career, Graham believes Sevens lost out to the sporting administration’s focus on the traditional form of the game - but with the importance the current coaching staff now place on the development pathway Sevens provides - and paired with Olympic status -the sport has rocketed back as a high priority.
“Absolutely, the time and effort the ARU is putting into Sevens is paying off,” Graham says.
“Have a look at the way that Michael O’Connor has structured it so everyone is accountable in terms of their conditioning, there are camps where the players focus on fitness, strategy of sevens and where they actually play against each other.
“It’s like a carton of eggs, you throw a carton of eggs and it’s tough to survive, Michael knows who are his best 12 to take away to a tournament and that breeds a real level of intensity and competition.
“The other thing is, I think Australian Rugby is committed to contracting players again - and it just shows their intent.
“There’s no doubt with Olympic status that Sevens will only get better and bigger and enjoy a higher profile, and I think that is evident by the spread of the national tournaments.
“The Gold Coast Sevens, the Sunshine Coast tournament, the Darwin tournament, these are events that 20 years ago when I was playing were probably part of the Rugby social calendar, but now they are actually part, not of the professional circuit as such ... but of the Sevens agenda.”
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