Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens interim Head Coach Tim Walsh has named an extended 15-man squad for the Oceania Regional Olympic Qualifier in Auckland (14-15 November).
Ed Jenkins skippers an experienced side that also includes 30 + cap veterans Jesse Parahi and Con Foley. Pama Fou, Greg Jeloudev and Henry Hutchison offer pace out wide while Wallaby Henry Speight, recently returned from 2015 Rugby World Cup duty, will also travel with the squad for the trip to New Zealand.
Tom Cusack has been rewarded for a series of powerful performances during the recent Central Coast Sevens with a spot in the squad and star centre Cameron Clark returns after a minor hamstring problem. James Stannard, Lewis Holland, Allan Fa’alava’au and Tom Lucas assume playmaking duties.
Three players will be omitted from the final squad on Thursday.
Pat McCutcheon (hamstring) and Nick Malouf (knee) were not considered due to injury.
Tim Walsh said: “We have prepared well having played a very valuable series against New Zealand in Rotorua followed by a solid performance at the Central Coast 7s.
“Training standards have been high and every squad member continues to challenge one another which has culminated in a stronger team. We have a belief that we will perform and gain us the desired result. However, with a spot at the Rio Olympics on the line in Auckland, we are under no illusion that now is the time to deliver.
“For us, it is all process and executing under pressure as there are seven other teams looking to fulfil their own Olympic dream. The Pacific Island nations are known for their passion for Rugby and in particular Sevens so we can expect a lot of physicality. I’ve heard many people say Samoa will be our main opponents for that coveted spot but I don’t buy into that at all - as per usual, we will be paying due respect to our pool and won’t be looking any further than Day One.”
On the inclusion of Henry Speight in the touring party, Walsh added: "We have been preparing for this tournament for a number of months now and obviously Henry hasn’t spent any time with the squad as yet. However, we felt this was an ideal opportunity for him to get used to some of our systems and familiarise himself with the playing group. Despite only arriving back from the Rugby World Cup last week, Henry was keen to travel which underlines the passion he has to be part of this squad."
Australia will play Nauru, Cook Islands and Tonga on Day One at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere (Auckland). Pool B, meanwhile, will feature Samoa, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa and the Soloman Islands.
All competing teams will progress to finals day and seeded according to their final pool placing - for example: 1st in Pool A will play 4th in Pool B, 2nd in Pool A will play 3rd in Pool B.
Only the winning team at the Oceania Regional Olympic Qualifier will secure a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The runners-up and third-placed side in the tournament will secure spots in the Final Olympic Qualification Tournament (date TBC).
Fans can catch both days from Auckland LIVE via FOX SPORTS (8.00am-5.00pm AEDT). Admission is free for fans wishing to attend the event.
Australian Men's Sevens fixtures in Auckland, New Zealand, 14-15 November:
Australia v Nauru, 9.50am AEDT
Australia v Cook Islands, 12.26pm AEDT
Australia v Tonga, 3.02pm AEDT
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens squad for the Oceania Regional Olympic Qualifier at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere, Auckland (three to be omitted):
Cameron Clark. Club: Northern Suburbs, NSW. Hometown: Sydney, NSW
Tom Cusack. Club: Canberra Royals, ACT. Hometown: Canberra, ACT
Allan Fa'alava'au. Club: Endeavour Hills, VIC. Hometown: Melbourne, VIC
Con Foley. Club: University of Queensland, QLD. Hometown: Fairfield, QLD
Pama Fou. Club: Souths, QLD. Hometown: Brisbane, QLD.
Lewis Holland. Club: Queanbeyan Whites, NSW. Hometown: Queanbeyan, NSW
Henry Hutchison. Club: Randwick, NSW. Hometown: Crows Nest, NSW
Greg Jeloudev. Club: Sydney University. Hometown: Sydney, NSW
Ed Jenkins. Club: Sydney University, NSW. Hometown: Sydney, NSW
Tom Lucas. Club: Sunnybank, QLD. Place of Birth: Rockhampton, QLD
Sam Myers. Club: Northern Suburbs, NSW. Hometown: Grenfell, NSW
Jesse Parahi. Club: Northern Suburbs, NSW. Hometown: Avoca Beach, NSW
Henry Speight. Club: Aquis Brumbies, ACT. Hometown: Canberra, ACT
James Stannard. Club: Souths, QLD. Hometown: Brisbane, QLD
Michael Wells. Club: Northern Suburbs, NSW. Hometown: Sydney, NSW