Qantas Australian Men's Sevens Head Coach Geraint John has named an extended 14-man squad for the Wellington Sevens which kicks off next Friday (6 February).
Outside back Shannon Walker makes his long-awaited return to national Sevens duty after a 12 month lay-off with a foot problem, while powerful forward Jesse Parahi returns to the squad after recovering from a hand injury that forced him to miss Dubai and Port Elizabeth. Greg Jeloudev, meanwhile, is also back in the fold after the ankle injury sustained prior to the South Africa Sevens healed.
Only long-term absentee Afa Pakalani (shoulder) is unavailable for the Wellington Sevens through injury.
"I've decided to take 14 players to Wellington to give us that little bit of flexibility. We're fortunate being so close to New Zealand that we are able to do this.
"Shannon [Walker] has trained well since he returned to full training a couple of weeks ago - he is looking sharp. I've mentioned it before but he gives us that x-factor. However, we have to understand it may take a bit of time to get to the level of match fitness where we all want him to be.
"We set ourselves some lofty standards after our performances in Dubai and Port Elizabeth and it's up to all of us – the squad and non-travellers - to make sure we continue to raise the bar for ourselves. We have a tough Pool, there's no doubt about that.
"Fiji will be gunning for us after we managed to beat them in Dubai and South Africa. However, their squad looks very, very strong for Wellington and on their day they can blow any team anyway.
"That said, we have two tough pool games prior to Fiji. Wales nearly turned us over at the Commonwealth Games and if we're not on our game early on we'll be playing catch up. Wales have bought in some new players from the regions and look very strong. Portugal, meanwhile, played extremely well to defeat Gold Coast Cup Finalists Samoa last time out in Port Elizabeth. We played them in South Africa too in what was an extremely difficult game and they have some x-factor players.
"It should be a cracking tournament - the atmosphere is always electric in Wellington and I'm sure the fans will come out in their droves to support the event."
Australia currently sit fourth after three legs of the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series. Wellington represents the first of back-to-back tournaments that will see the series head west to Las Vegas after the weekend of explosive Rugby Sevens in New Zealand’s capital.
All of the action from Wellington will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS 2 from 9am on Friday, 6 February.
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens fixtures for Wellington, New Zealand on 6-7 February:
Australia v Wales, Pool C, 10.42am (AEDT), 6 February
Australia v Portugal, Pool C, 1.36pm (AEDT), 6 February
Australia v Fiji, Pool C, 4.54pm (AEDT), 6 February
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens squad for the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series in Wellington, New Zealand (two 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: Auckland, NZ
Con Foley. Club: University of Queensland, QLD. Hometown: Fairfield, QLD
Pama Fou. Club: South, QLD. Hometown: Brisbane, QLD
Alex Gibbon. Club: Southern Districts. Hometown: Lismore, NSW
Lewis Holland. Club: Queanbeyan Whites. Hometown: Queanbeyan, NSW
Greg Jeloudev. Club: Sydney University. Hometown: Sydney, NSW
Ed Jenkins. Club: Sydney University, NSW. Hometown: Sydney, NSW
Nick Malouf. Club: Sydney University, NSW. Hometown: Robertson, QLD
Sam Myers. Club: Northern Suburbs, NSW. Hometown: Grenfell, NSW
Jesse Parahi. Club: Northern Suburbs, NSW. Hometown: Avoca Beach, NSW
James Stannard. Club: Souths, QLD. Born: Brisbane, QLD
Shannon Walker. Club: Easts, QLD. Born: Kyogle, NSW