Holland backs Friend ahead of Hamilton

Mens - Hamilton
by Sam Phillips

Australian Men's Sevens skipper Lewis Holland has backed coach Andy Friend in the wake of the team's glorious run at the Sydney 7s.

Friend's future at the helm of the side was under a cloud prior to Sydney, with no World Series titles to show through his two years in charge to date, but that all changed with a stunning Cup victory at the weekend.

Holland, who will not play in Hamilton as a precautionary measure following his return from an achilles injury, couldn't have been more emphatic in his support for Friend when he spoke to RUGBY.com.au at the Commonwealth Games pool draw.

"I 100 percent want to see him stay on," Holland said.

"It's not just about what Friendy does to prepare us to go on the field - training wise we have Nick Poulos running a great S and C program, Simon Harries is getting blokes back onto the paddock but then off the field, there's some stuff we are trying to do with the team.

"That's down to Friendy and then - I hate using the word culture but just getting everyone to buy in, to believe in a cause, to be held accountable for things that the team want to strive for."

Holland lifting the Sydney 7s trophy high above his head was a watershed moment for the squad, one that has been building since the player exodus post Rio Olympics.

"We had a great preseason and we won three tournaments during that preseason," Holland said.

"Winning and understanding how to win just instils confidence within the team and the players that are playing.

"We headed to Dubai thinking that we were going to win and we were unlucky - it was more to our own little errors and learnings that we didn't get the results we desired there.The Aussies thumped New Zealand en route to Sydney 7s glory. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"You can fall into some self insecurity where you think everything you're doing isn't working.

"That was the tournament where we were a bit questionable but to come back early, train hard and keep going over what we were doing, what was working, to go into Sydney after that and put it all together was awesome.

"It wasn't the flashiest football - we used a lot of pressure to turn the ball over in defence - and then we just played footy once we got the ball."

Now they've shown they can beat the world's best, the Australians must show they can back it up in Hamilton.

If they're to do that without Holland, Jesse Parahi and Boyd Killingworth, they will send a serious message to the rest of the nations on the circuit.

In Tom Lucas, Dylan Pietsch and Sam Croke, the Australians have more than capable replacements at their disposal.

"That depth is what we have been trying to build and we have been building off the back of Rio, when so many guys left, we didn't really have anyone to draw upon," Holland said.

"There are a lot of younger players that we are educating and now we're letting them play and adapt.

"Having those guys is awesome because it keeps pushing those top guys."Ben O'Donnell is on the up. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyIn Ben O'Donnell and Maurice Longbottom, the Aussies have two bonafide examples of young guns taking the opportunity afforded to them.

"When I did my achilles I went and coached over there in Las Vegas and Benny O'Donnell was over there for us," Holland said.

"He was a born football player he just wasn't fit - now he's fit he's killing it.

"It's awesome to see and it's the same with Maurice - he's the new kid on the block and still finding his feet but those feet are electric.

"Once he understands the game he will be deadly but at the moment he is giving us what we need at the right time."