Adapt or perish in Aon Uni 7s as double-header throws up new challenge

Uni 7s
by Sarah Friend

The adaptability of Aon University sides will be put to the test on Saturday with the competition combining with the NRC for a festival day at Bond University.

The fourth leg of the Aon Uni sevens will be staged at on the Gold Coast, and it shapes as a crucial penultimate leg, with three sides - University of Queensland, Griffith University and Macquarie University - all locked in first spot in the series on 54 points each.

But the first day of competition will see a lengthier-than-normal pause in the middle of day one's pool games, with the NRC clash between Queensland Country and the Sydney Rays also being staged on the same oval.

It is part of a wider Rugby Festival being hosted by Bond University, which also includes the Queensland Rugby Union Junior Girls 7s State Championships.

The Aon Uni sevens teams will play three rounds on Saturday and then take an extended break before round four, allowing the NRC game to kick off at 3.05pm.

Rugby fans will be happy with such a feast of footy but the format has left coaches figuring out how to best deal with the extension of break that normally last two hours between games.

Some are looking to return to their accomodation to rest.

For Macquarie Rays coach Nathan McMahon, however, sevens is all about being adaptable and though the schedule will be a new challenge - it will be a shared challenge among all teams. 

“It’s a challenge, we’ve got a long break between round three to round four so the challenge is the girls are going to be sky high following round three and it will depend on how much we dip and get back up for round four," McMahon told RUGBY.com.au.

"But that’s part of sevens, you’ve got to ride that roller coaster and come out and be adaptable and see how you go."

Gold medal-winning Australian womens coach Tim Walsh, who is now men's coach, is a huge exponent in building teams who are mentally and physically adaptable, and unfazed by logistical changes. 

Perhaps the even tougher challenge for the Rays will be that they face in the in-form Queensland University in the last game.

“I could go both ways there, having a long break and coming back fresh to play UQ," McMahon said. "But look they're getting the same rest time as us so we can’t complain that it’s not fair."

The Rays on the hunt for redemption following a poor performance in their last round, where the Sydney team only narrowly qualified for the finals. They ultimately came home well to finish third but McMahon knows preparation is key if they are to be a serious contender for the title in the final round in Adelaide.

“We’ve had to pick ourselves back up after round three but that’s the beauty of this competition, you’ve got five rounds to make it right and we’ve gone back to the drawing board, so we’ll see how we go," he said.

"It will come down to how sore your bodies are on that day and how well you manage your players through the first three rounds.

"Body management wise you’ve got to be really smart with your players in rotation.”

Round four of the Aon Uni 7s series will be held at Bond University, Gold Coast. All games streamed live from 9am on RUGBY.com.au.