Sevens hopefuls will need to earn berths

by staff

Interim men’s sevens coach Tim Walsh says the program would “be crazy” not to welcome fifteens players into the fold, but everyone vying for an Olympic spot would need to earn it.

The men’s sevens team are leaving for New Zealand on Tuesday ahead of a vital Oceania qualifying tournament, with a win guaranteeing them an Olympic place.

Last week-France-based Quade Cooper officially signalled his desire to make an Olympics run when unveiled by Toulon but no official agreement has been struck at this stage.

“Quade’s an incredible athlete, he’s got an incredible array of skills. So I think anyone would be crazy not to say, ‘Quade, come and have a crack at it’,’

“But again he’ll have to prove himself.”

There’s a lot of detail in sevens and he’d have to sort of change his game to sort of to prove himself as a sevens players, both tactically but also physically.

Walsh is a former teammate of Cooper’s, having played with him at the Reds in 2010.

“You’ve seen his footwork, his skill, his passing," he said.

“Tactically he understands rugby, he’s like a chess player.

“He can manipulate players around the field. He’s a very smart rugby player if he puts in the time and the effort and it’s something he wants to do, then he’s perfectly capable of it."

Walsh said any fifteens player who attempted to come across would not have an easy task ahead of them.

“Many players could just step in and do a job but we don’t players just to do a job, we want players to come in and be world class elite sevens players,” he said.

“So to get to that point, firstly qualify, but to get to a gold medal, that’s what you’re going to need to be able to do is to prove yourself and train for a period of time and understand sevens.

“The current players, the contracted, the centralised players, they’re now elite world class athletes themselves.

“They’ve been veteran players and they just get better and better every year.

“They’re embracing it and they’re wanting the best players playing for Australia, going to the Olympics.

“They’re not afraid of the challenge of those players coming in.”

The sevens squad welcomed in Wallabies back Henry Speight on Monday, who returned from the World Cup on Friday.

Speight is the first Australian to have a split sevens and Super Rugby contract, allowing him to play for the ACT Brumbies as well as sevens tournaments and potentially the Rio Olympics.

The 27-year-old said he was confident he would be able to handle the transition.

“It’s just good to get the body back in the groove of things and really good that they’ve taken me on board,” he said.

“It’ll probably take me a few days to get up to speed but as far as a first session goes it was really great.”