Tim Walsh has named his strongest possible Australian men's sevens squad for the Oceania Sevens Championship to prepare the upcoming 2018-19 HSBC Sevens World Series opener in Dubai.
The Aussie team, which contains two prodigal sons in Nick Malouf and Michael Wells, will head to Fiji on Wednesday for the two-day tournament, which begins on Friday.
“We’re using it as a precurser (to Dubai) so we’re sending our best team," Walsh said.
"If we were going to select Dubai tomorrow it would pretty much be this team.
"We’ve been working on a few different plays and combination, just getting that stability within the team. We’re obviously going there to perform and if we perform we know we can win. That’s ultimately the goal."
Putting last year’s World Cup disappointment behind them, Walsh is pleased with how the squad has come closer together through an extensive pre-season.
“It’s really pleasing to see all this pre-season work paying off," he said.
"Physically they’re in good shape and mentally I think pretty good, so it will be a really good bench marker leading into the World Series.”
Rio Olympian Malouf will make his sevens return after knocking back Europe offers to chase the Olympic dream.
The 25-year-old will vice-captain the side in his first hit out since playing for former English club, Leicester Tigers.
Walsh says it was a huge coup to get Malouf back on board, and said he'd already had an immediate impact on the playing squad.
“There’s a really big recruitment for us to get Nick Malouf back," Walsh said.
"He’s come from a very very strong sevens experience then he goes away to Leicester and plays with some of the world's best players in a different environment. He brings that maturity, experience, professional edge and a character within his own way as well. I think he’s a very strong attribute to what this team needed.”
Malouf said his decision to return down under was no brainer and one he couldn’t put a price on when the Olympics carrot was dangled.
“I think ultimately it was the Olympics," Malouf said.
"There’s not really any price of money that you can put on going to the Olympics, having been to one before I know how special it was."
One of the more experienced players in the side, Malouf is excited to step up and share the captaincy role with teammates Lewis Holland and Jesse Parahi.
“I knew coming back I’d probably be one of the more experienced guys so that’s probably helped out a bit," he said.
"I’m excited to be Lewy’s (Holland) vice-captain and help him out as best I can to get the best results.”
The Australian men’s sevens side will first face Vanuatu in their pool rounds on Friday.
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD FOR OCEANIA SEVENS CHAMPIONSHIPS
1.Lewis Holland (c)
2. Jesse Parahi (vc)
3. Nick Malouf (vc)
4. Ben O’Donnell
5. John Porch
6. Michael Wells
7. Liam McNamara
8. Matthew Hood
9. Boyd Killingworth
10. Brandon Quinn
11. Henry Hutchison
12. Lachie Anderson
13. Tim Anstee