Aussies need to muscle up after disappointing Colorado finish

Womens - Colorado
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia’s women’s Sevens need to up the ante in the physicality stakes after a fifth-placed finish in Colorado, coach John Manenti says.

Australia finished outside the Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2015 when they lost to the USA on Monday morning (AEDT) but that was their only loss of the tournament as they bounced back with wins over England and Ireland to finish fifth.

The USA outsized and outmuscled the Aussies in the quarter-final and it’s not the first time they’ve been beaten in the physicality stakes, relying more on their speed and skills in recent seasons.

Manenti has been vocal about the need for his side to improve in contact and with the USA in their pool for December’s Dubai competition as well, it will be a big focus in coming months.

“They’re enormous, half a head taller than us and 10kg heavier across the park,” he said.

“We struggled to handle their size and that’s probably something we’ve got to address because they’re in our pool for the next leg.

“We need to be working hard on those contact areas because at 60kg vs 80kg, it’s a big difference and they can move too.”

The Aussies are on the hunt for a title in Colorado. Photo: World RugbyThe Aussies were carrying some wounded troops through the weekend, with Charlotte Caslick, Shannon Parry and Evania Pelite all carrying niggles while gold medal trio Alicia Quirk, Emilee Cherry and Emma Tonegato are still recovering from injury.

Ellia Green made her impact felt, particularly in the latter stages of the tournament, and rising stars Page McGregor and Yasmin Meakes took on greater responsibility in the tournament with some sore bodies among the squad.

Manenti said he was pleased with his side’s response after the USA defeat, an unfamiliar position for many of the squad.

“It was so important to pick ourselves up, we were pretty deflated, some of the girls who have around the squad for a long time but most of the girls haven’t been involved in too many tournaments where they aren’t involved playing gold, bronze, silver, so that’s challenging itself and they were  a little bit heartbroken,” he said.

“We spoke about the pride of wearing the jersey and the ability to be able to bounce back - they did that pretty well.

“It would’ve been easy to throw their toys out of the cot but they were resilient and that’s really good character.

The difference between fifth and sixth this tournament could ultimately decide their route to the Tokyo Olympics, with the top four sides at the end of the World Series automatically qualifying and the rest forced to go through repechage tournaments.

One poor finish is by no means the end of their chances - New Zealand finished fifth in the opening World Series tournament in Dubai last year before going on to win the World Cup and Commonwealth Games this year.

Australia last finished outside the top four in 2015 - their last Olympic qualification season - but went on to secure their automatic spot by the end of the year.

“In 2015, they had that sort of stuff happened leading into rio, so it’s a good learning curve and really important we continue to build that depth,” he said.

The Aussies are hoping to have Alicia Quirk back for the Dubai 7s while Emilee Cherry is 50-50 for the December tournament.

The 2019 Sydney 7s runs from February 1-3 2019. Buy tickets here.