UPDATED: Walsh hopes Wells will be first of many to combine Super and Sevens

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

UPDATED: Waratahs No. 8 Michael Wells has signed a new "split deal" that will see him divide his time between the Australian Sevens team and Super Rugby.

And Australian sevens coach Tim Walsh says he's keen for more Super Rugby players to follow suit and look at combining XVs with a possible Olympic spot in 2020.

Wells was one of the Waratahs' most consistent performers in the 2018 season but has elected to return - partially at least - to his former Sevens roots.

The 25-year-old was a member of the Aussie Sevens team in the 2014-15 season before joining the Brumbies in 2016.

Michael Wells will be in action in Japan. Photo: Getty ImagesWells has already joined the Aussie sevens squad and will not play in the NRC.

Instead he will play in the first six World Series tournaments for Australia - including Sydney Sevens - prior to re-joining the Waratahs in February.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Wells, who was a well-regarded member of the Australian Sevens team on the 2014-15 World Series circuit.

He even played in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Auckland in November of 2015 that booked the Aussie team a spot in Rio.

Aussie Sevens officials had Wells penned in for an Olympic spot and were disappointed when he left Sevens to pursue a Super Rugby future in Canberra..

“He’s quick, aggressive around the park and has all the hallmarks of a player who can transition into the Sevens arena," Australian coach Tim Walsh said in a statement.

“I’m a firm believer that playing Sevens makes our athletes into better Rugby players; Sevens magnifies your skills as a player, as a person and it delivers accountability.

“We’ve developed players in Sevens and accelerated and improved their abilities giving them the skills to play for the Wallabies and to be Olympians. Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Sean McMahon, Matt Giteau, James Stannard and Ed Jenkins are all testament to this.

“We are now two years out from the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and we are looking for the best Australian rugby players with or seeking Sevens experience. 

“The message is that there are options available for players to pursue an Olympic dream without having to drop their Super Rugby and Wallaby ambitions.

“We want the best athletes playing our game and we believe opportunities like this will open the eyes of many talented young athletes to choose Sevens as a career, a pathway or for skill acquisition.” 

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said he was "thrilled" to be able to keep Wells in sky blue via the flexible contract with sevens.

“This agreement comes with challenges given the physical demands of each format, however, Michael is one of our most professional and dedicated players and if anyone can overcome those, he can," Gibson said. 

“He is a player who has proven that Sevens is a viable pathway for the fifteens game and he has shown his ability to adapt. The game will certainly benefit from his strong leadership qualities and I cannot wait to see him do well in both.” 

Only Henry Speight has previously juggled both sevens and Super Rugby, in the lead up to Rio.

Wells said: “I’m looking forward to the next year which is going to be an exciting challenge of both Sevens and XVs. 

“The HSBC Sevens World Series is one of the toughest competitions in the world, so I am looking forward to getting into training with the squad and getting ready for the World Series. 

“I’d like to thank both NSW Rugby and Rugby Australia for finding the right balance for me with both programs and I am looking forward to putting my best foot forward whether I’m in a gold or blue jersey over the next 12 months.”