Four fresh faces for Aussie Men's Sevens in Munich

by Sam Phillips

Australian Men's Sevens coach Andy Friend has named four fresh faces for the Oktoberfest 7s, as preparations for 2018 hit top gear.

Jeral Skelton, Ben O'Donnell, Maurice Longbottom and Matthew Hood, who all impressed in a preseason series in Mackay, have been handed their first chance to shine on the world stage.

Friend told of his excitement in giving the quartet a crack at the top level.

"I was really impressed with how Jeral went up in Mackay and he's been going really well on the training track so he has earned this chance," Friend said.

"Benny O'Donnell has been with us for a while now and he's been working so hard to get his chance.

"Maurice Longbottom is a guy I’m really excited about.Maurice Longbottom is one rookie to watch in Munich. Photo: Ben Dolphin"His acceleration off the mark is unbelievable and he’s always able to find holes.

"We just need to get him the ball in some space and he’ll show what he’s capable of."

One exciting young star that won't be playing in Munich is Liam McNamara, who signed on until the 2020 Olympics this week.

He starred for the Australian U20s this year so to see him tear his ACL in Mackay was a major blow, as the team looks to build more stability and with that, success, this season.

"Before he left (for the World U20s) we had a conversation about the future and he said he was 90 percent certain he was going to stay on," Friend said.

"Then when he came back I sat down with him and he said my percentage has changed.

"I was thinking oh no, here we goBen O'Donnell is another exciting debutant. Photo: Ben Dolphin"He said I’m 99 percent certain now and that was music to my ears.

"Going away and playing with the U20s just confirmed to him that this is a group with the potential to do some great things."

On field, Friend is well aware his team must start producing results on field to raise the profile of the sport.

No tournament wins since 2012 has hurt the reputation of Men's Sevens in Australia and Friend did not shy away from that.

"We'd be really disappointed if we didn't play quarter finals, at least, in every (World Series) tournament this season," he said.

"Realistically, we'd like to make the semi's in half of those and the final in half of those, again.

"That gives us a few chances to pick up a title and we know as well as anyone that we need to start achieving that success to raise the profile of the sport in our country."

Australia has been placed in Pool C in Munich alongside Fiji, Chile and Ireland with the final day to be broadcast LIVE and exclusive on FOX SPORTS, kicking off at 9pm AEST.