Defining week for Sevens

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The next week will be a defining one for the Australian Men’s Sevens, with Olympic spots on the line.

Coach Andy Friend said he had roughly three-quarters of the squad locked in but there would be plenty of opportunity for others to come into the mix.

One thing that is for sure is that Friend won’t be adding any more names to this squad of 20 players, who will play in the development series.

“It’s the current players we’ve got training and have had for the last couple of months,” he said.

“This year’s taught me it’s a truly specialist game and to be a specialist you have to be in the program in order to be good at it.”

The series, to be played against development players next week, will feature some surprising names, including experienced Nick Malouf.

Malouf was thought to have ruptured his ACL earlier this year, for the second time in less than 12 months, but positive medical results have given him a chance to vie for an Olympic berth.

Tom Cusack will be back in action next week. Photo: Getty ImagesAside from Malouf, a handful of players will be returning from injury for the series, with Henry Speight headlining the list, playing his first lot of Sevens since February’s Sydney tournament.

Tom Cusack (wrist) is another making his return from injury in the three-match series, while Pama Fou and Jesse Parahi will have the chance to string more games together after absences from the team.

Fellow Wallaby Nick Cummins won’t be suiting up, having picked up a knee injury in the London Sevens last month.

Star playmaker Lewis Holland will also be watching on, but given his early season form, it is unlikely to hurt his chances of a seat to Rio.

Australia finished well out of Cup contention in the final two tournaments of the World Series but Friend said Paris and London gave him a chance to experiment a bit more, safe in the knowledge his side couldn’t move up or down the Series rankings.

“The last couple of tournaments were about mixing and matching combinations that hadn’t had a lot of time together,” he said.

“While we never went in with the intent of not winning, when they went in you can look at it and see that it serves a purpose without necessarily progressing to the Cup finals.

“Those tournaments were more about opportunity and seeing combinations.”

Friend said as much as picking the Olympic squad would be crucial, getting a look at the next generation of Sevens players would be a handy insight for long-term planning.