The Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens team have been drawn in the same pool as Fiji in what shapes up to be the glamour game of the opening day of the Gold Coast Sevens next month (11-12 October).
The IRB today announced Geraint John’s side have been drawn in an awkward-looking Pool C that will see the home outfit play Portugal first up on Saturday, 11 October, before taking on Scotland. They round out the pool stages by playing the flamboyant Fijians.
The Gold Coast Sevens is the first event of the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series and first ever on the Olympic qualification calendar. Only the top four countries in the 2014/15 Sevens World Series standings – along with 2016 Olympics hosts Brazil – are guaranteed a spot in Rio.
Australian Men’s Sevens player Cameron Clark, named in the 2013/14 IRB Sevens World Series Dream Team, said: “My first thoughts are that this is a very tough group. When they are on form, Fiji can win any tournament. Scotland have been big improvers of late and have some form behind them. They did very well in the IRB event in Glasgow last season and again at the Commonwealth Games in July. Portugal has one or two match winners in their team which makes them a danger. The reality in Sevens is that anyone can beat any other side on any given day.
“The aim for us is to go one better than last year on the Gold Coast to get those all-important World Series points. In order to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, we need to be at the top end of the World Series, playing Cup Quarter-Finals and Cup Semi-Finals on a regular basis. We ultimately want to be more consistent, something which we seem to be achieving with each passing tournament.
“We’re all looking forward to playing on the Gold Coast. We haven’t played a lot of footy lately and a lot of the squad are jumping out of their skin to get out on the paddock. We’ll have the crowd backing us. Friends and family will be there to support us and it’s always special to play at home.”
The Gold Coast Sevens will be Geraint John’s first IRB event in charge of the Australian Men’s Sevens side having taken over from Michael O’Connor in the off season.
John is under no illusions at the task at hand: “This is a tough group, no question. We will have to prepare ourselves correctly and we won’t be taking anything for granted.
“First and foremost, however, we have to make sure we aim up for our first game against Portugal. They have a group of incredibly hard-working players with plenty of quality in their ranks. Fiji will be a incredibly difficult proposition, while Scotland has a new coach on board so their players will no doubt be looking to impress.
“This is the first event on the Olympic qualification calendar and we will really need the backing of the Australian public and passionate local Gold Coast support to give us the best possible chance of making the Cup stages of the tournament. The crowd inspired the side all the way to the Cup Final in 2013 and we’d love their support once again.”
Fiji thrilled fans throughout the 2013/14 season, winning in Dubai and Tokyo on their way to a third-place finish in the Sevens World Series. By their own standards, Scotland had an indifferent season but did beat Australia the last time the countries played in Glasgow in May. Portugal narrowly escaped relegation from the World Series after finishing 14th last season.
Elsewhere, Pool A will see current World Series title holders New Zealand play Samoa, France and Japan. In Pool B, Commonwealth Games gold medallists South Africa have been drawn alongside Kenya, Wales and American Samoa. There are plenty of rivalries in a competitive Pool D with England, Canada, Argentina and the USA facing off against one another.
Pool A: New Zealand, Samoa, France, Japan
Pool B: South Africa, Kenya, Wales, American Samoa
Pool C: Fiji, Australia, Scotland, Portugal
Pool D: England, Canada, Argentina, USA
The top two teams from each pool will progress to the Cup Quarter-Finals on Sunday, 12 October, with the bottom two sides from each pool playing in the Bowl Quarter-Finals as all competing countries battle for crucial World Series points.
Tickets for the festival of Rugby at the Gold Coast Sevens are currently on sale, from $35 (concessions) and $50 (adults) through Ticketek. Public transport is included in all ticket prices.