World Cup can prove champion status for Aussies

Rugby World Cup 7s - Womens
by Sam Phillips

A World Cup crown would provide validation for the Australian women’s Sevens side according to coach John Manenti, who admits his troops “snuck away” with the World Series title.

New Zealand finished just two competition points away from the top of the World Series standings having stormed home in hell raising form which forced every other nation on tour - particularly Australia - to go back to the drawing board.

Their Commonwealth Games gold and subsequent thumpings of the Australians in both Paris and London could lead one to believe they have been the best team this year and the odds for this weekend’s World Cup reflect as much - New Zealand listed as $1.40 favourites.

Manenti isn’t shying away from those facts, admitting his side had the Kiwis “on the hop” in both Dubai and Sydney - where they failed to finish on the podium and were hammered in the final, respectively.

“I think we probably got the Kiwis on the hop a bit in the first two tournaments,” he told RUGBY.com.au

“We didn't have to play them in Dubai and in Sydney it was a home tournament and we were on fire.Lauren Brown is one of a handful of fresh faces in the Australian squad. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“We just had one of those days that you have every now and then and we got the better of them.

“That gave them a bit of fire to not let that happen again and fire up.

“They went away, worked really hard from Sydney up to the Comm Games and came out on top - that’s a credit to them.”

Manenti filled the shoes of Tim Walsh after the Commonwealth Games and immediately faced a testing string of tournaments.

Ellia Green, Alicia Quirk and Sharni Williams have played just one tournament between them during Manenti's tenure but he believes their absence has been a blessing in disguise - despite the run New Zealand made at the death.

“A lot of people said to me ‘What are you doing taking over this team - they have achieved everything there is to achieve and you're coming in now’ but that's part of the challenge,” he said.

“We lost three players but in a funny way it was kind of good to take over at that time.

“We had a bit of change, we had some hardships to come through and we needed a fresh approach at the time.Yasmin Meakes earned invaluable playing time in the big three's absence. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley“The girls were down, flat and they needed something to change a bit of personnel issues forced change.

“Had we done that we probably don't have the progression we have had with some of the girls now.

“We wouldn't have got the development out of Dom (Du Toit), Demi (Hayes), Page (McGregor), Yasmin (Meakes), Lauren (Brown).

“When I say it was a blessing in disguise I think the fact that we snuck away with the World Series - and we did literally sneak away with it - was largely part to the good work that was done early in the season.

“It may not be evident now, in this tournament, but as we go into next year that development will be a great asset.”

It’s that sense of reality which has Manenti urging his side to not look too far ahead in anticipation of another trans-Tasman showdown.

“Other teams are fighting pretty hard with the Kiwis and making them work for it and over the last couple of games we have let them get away from us early and been forced to chase game,” he said.

“We'd love an opportunity to play them but we can't get focused on playing them because the French, the Spanish, the Canadians, the Fijians - they all stand in front of us at the moment.

“If we can play them it would be a great chance to see where we stand and how we have progressed over the last month or so.

“But that will be a byproduct of a pretty great tournament if we can get to that stage.”

Australia's World Cup Sevens campaign kicks off on Saturday morning AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

FIXTURES

All times AEST

Saturday, July 21

4:28am - Australian women's Sevens vs PNG

12:47pm - Australian men's Sevens vs Winner of France/Jamaica