France the first worry for Aussie Men

Chris Ford Profile
by Chris Ford

It’s a day two match-up with South Africa that has fans salivating but the Australia Sevens say they are looking no further than their Olympic opener against France.

Australia is in Pool B alongside France, South Africa and surprise qualifiers Spain, but coach Andy Friend believes the danger game is against the French on Wednesday at 12am AEST. 

France finished 11th in the last World Series with Japan, Spain and hosts Brazil the only nations competing at the Olympics that are lower on the World Rankings, but they do boast Sevens sensation Virimi Vakatawa.

Virimi Vakatawa starred at the Paris Sevens. Photo: Getty Images“They are a different team when Vakatawa plays, no doubt about that,” Friend said. 

“If we just concentrate on Vakatawa then we’re going to be in trouble. 

"They are definitely a team that needs to be respected.”

Vakatawa and France not the only hurdle after Spain surprised the Rugby world in qualifying during the last repechage in Monaco just two months ago.

Spain stormed into the Olympics after beating Paris Sevens champions Samoa in the final. 

“We actually trained against them (Spain) in Hong Kong and in the last play of the day, they had a left-hand scrum and they played a loop play that tore us apart,” Friend said.

“I remember myself and a few of the boys said “Alright, they are not a bad football side.”

“Wind that clock forward to what they did in Monaco and they knocked off some good teams, they knocked off Samoa, Canada and Russia so we have to respect them.”

Friend and his squad are currently in a two-week training camp 100 kilometres south of Rio de Janeiro with combinations being locked in for the three-day tournament.

“I have a pretty firm view what our starting seven will be and then it’s just how the game goes to who I will drop in,” Friend said. 

“What I’m really confident in, is with the 12 players we have got, we can drop players in or out and keep the opposition under pressure.”

Rugby Sevens’ debut in the Olympic Games will be a modified competition format with 12 teams split into three pools compared to the usual 16 team, four pool format. 

Australia Men’s Olympic campaign

Wednesday 10 August (12am AEST) against France

Wedneday 10 August (5am AEST) against Spain

Thursday 11 August (12.30am AEST) against South Africa