Sevens could be big winner from Aussie drought

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sevens could be the beneficiary of Australia’s worst Super Rugby weekend, as the Olympics approach.

After a 3-0 England whitewash over the Wallabies in the June test series and underwhelming Super Rugby results, culminating in last weekend’s 0-5 record for Australian teams, the Sevens have a chance to give the rugby community something to celebrate.

The women go into Rio as the number-one ranked team, while the men are ranked just outside the medals, though have shown potential to rise up the ranks.

Andy Friend says pride is key for his team. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyIt’s an opportunity but also an added pressure for the sevens, men’s coach Andy Friend said, with the spotlight to turn to Sevens in between Super Rugby and the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship campaign, starting on August 20.

“I think the timing of all of that it's probably for us it's probably fortunate. However, it also puts a bit of pressure on doesn't it?,” he said.

“We didn't win a game in the recent Test series last weekend and it's probably on everyone's mind that Super Rugby, that wasn't great.

“People will continue to support our code, they will for sure but if we could put some smiles on faces (that would be great),” he said.

“For the men's and the women's teams to go over there and medal and hopefully gold medal and more so just play with real pride for our country...I think that'll be really special for everyone that loves rugby.

“Even for those that don't even know Sevens to be able to watch that and say, ‘that's a special game,’ because it is a special game and I think it can have a really telling effect on how this game will grow and will continue to go in Australia.”

Ed Jenkins will captain the side. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen Friend talks about pride, he says it’s an intrinsic characteristic in his side, manifesting itself in “unrelenting” behaviours.

“Our style is about being unrelenting and being clinical but the unrelenting side is just that we never give up,” he said.

“You watch these fellas, the way they train, the way we've got certain messages with our body language.

“We don't show that we're tired, we are, their legs are burning, their lungs are burning, but they don't show they're tired and they keep fighting, they work for each other, with each other and that's the game of sevens.

“If you've never seen the game before when you watch that and you watch the physicality of how ferociously they hit and how hard they work for each other.

“It can only have the image of pride in their head that these guys are putting everything, exposing themselves totally out there on the footy field.

That pride element is not just on the field, though, Friend says, in a not dissimilar stance to his Wallabies counterpart Michael Cheika, who speaks often about character and pride.

At the same time, they're good blokes. They're real gentlemen actually. As an Australian watching that, you'd have to be proud.”

It’s not going to be an easy assignment for the Aussie men in Rio, up against Spain, France and major rivals South Africa to combat in their pool before medals are even discussed.

Australia kicks off its campaign on August 10 AEST, with the competition running for three days.