Friend targets big three in Sevens season ahead

by staff

Australian Men’s Sevens coach Andy Friend has three targets in his sights in the looming season - the Sydney Sevens, Commonwealth Games, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Ahead of a six-game series against Japan in Mackay next week, Friend has identified how his program is looking to build in order to peak at the right time in a hectic 12 months of rugby sevens.

“I think we unearthed some real talent last year," Friend said.

"Second year in I think the boys will continue to grow, their understanding of the game of sevens and their performance on the field will be a lot better.

“It’s a challenge where we’ve got to peak at the right time, we’ve virtually got 52 weeks of rugby (ahead of us), lots of international travel, lots of full-on tournaments."

Friend added that it was going to be a tough year and that his squad would have to be managed physically and mentally.

"The competition’s going to be very tough, we’re going to have some very physically and mentally fatigued boys if we don’t manage them properly,” he said.

“On song, we’re playing as good as any team in the world, but we need to be far more physical and dominant in our tackle."

But finishing off scoring opportunities when they present themselves under pressure was where the men needed to lift their game.

“Our execution in our attacking 22 is where we need to improve. We’re equal best in the world in getting into that zone, but we’re about 12th-best in the world in finishing that off with a try, so we need to have a look at how we’re executing," Friend said.

"If you’re not ready for putting your body through [a match], getting up again three hours later and going again, and keeping your standards at that world class level, you’re going to get damaged.”

Friend also reflected on his team’s trip to Mackay, and threat the Japanese squad poses.

“Next week’s about getting up in the heat, then looking to get on with some training, but then also looking to play some games, so trying to put some of the training into game scenarios," he said.

“[Japan] lost a lot of their Rio squad, but they’ve got some new, exciting talent, so they’re going to want to prove something.

"We know the game style they’ll play, they’re full of energy, they’ll throw the ball around, defensively they’re very brave, they’re up in your face.

"For us it’s going to be about maintaining aggression and trying to get some dominance on them.”