X-factor the vital ingredient in finals push

Uni 7s
by Jill Scanlon

While the cream may seem to have risen to the top, it would be foolish to assume the bottom four teams in the Aon Uni 7s have nothing more to offer in the remaining two rounds.

Last week, University of Adelaide showed that the addition of one X-factor player can make all the difference, as Mahalia Murphy joined her Aussie team mate Vani Pelite in helping the Romas take a step up in form to finish fifth at Macquarie University.

So with Sharni Williams included in the University of Canberra line-up for this penultimate tournament, perhaps a group round with a different look will emerge by the end of day one.

Williams is not the only experienced Aussie rep to take to the field for the first time this weekend.

Gold medallist and veteran of the Aussie Women’s rugby scene, Nicole Beck, is making her long-awaited return to the competitive fray after an absence of 12 months, when she took time away from the game after Rio, to have her second child.

Australian coach Tim Walsh will undoubtedly be one interested observer, keen to see how she copes with her first tournament play all year.

With a massive 2018 Sevens calendar ahead, Beck will be determined to show the coach it is not all about new emerging talent, but that the older, wiser heads still have plenty to offer out on the park and within the structures of the team culture.

Beck will be bolstering the University of Tasmania side, joining Aussie team mate Shanice Parker, US import Kiki Morgan and impressive Uni 7s performer Lauren Murty in a squad which has worked hard under the guidance of former Wallaby Luke Burgess, but has been dominated on the scoreboard by more seasoned opposition.

In other changes, there will be no Alicia Quirk guiding the UNE squad, having been sidelined by a hamstring injury, but she will no doubt have plenty of impact mentoring from the sidelines.

Her impact will definitely be missed but her leadership so far will have instilled some lasting confidence in the squad.

Bond University is still looking strong with Charlotte Caslick, Brooke Walker, Millie Boyle and Stacey Flood spearheading a talented local line-up and will be targeting rival University of Queensland which has instigated two changes in its lineup for this home round.

Dom Du Toit and Bo Vette-Welsh will be missing for Macquarie University leaving Chloe Dalton to bear a bigger load, but she will be supported by three new inclusions to the Rays side in Montana Walters, Freya Clayhills and Katie Harrison, who will bring fresh legs to a Rays side that is keen to get back into medal contention after finishing outside the top three in Sydney.

The Uni 7s instalment this weekend is certainly the most anticipated to date as the first two saw players and teams settling into the format and into their combinations.

The penultimate round of this inaugural series will either see the more established teams pull away from the group and outline the final shape of the competition, or, it will open the field up a little more and create interest for some David and Goliath scenarios heading into the final round.

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