Sevens: Oktoberfest to provide perfect Oceania warm-up for Aussie men

Rugby World Cup 7s - Mens
by Emma Greenwood

Australia will kick-off preparations for the crucial Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament in November by sending a full-strength team to the Oktoberfest Sevens in Munich.

The Aussie men's sevens side leaves on Sunday for the tournament which will host the world's top eight teams and a challenge coach Tim Walsh said was perfect for their Oceania preparations.

"We went there two years ago and used it as a lead-in to the World Series and the boys won that one, so we've got a good record there," Walsh said.

"This time around there's the top eight teams in the world competing but they'll probably send various different teams depending on what their preparation is for the World Series.

Lewis Holland on the burst for the Aussies. Photo: Getty images

"Out of the top eight, six teams have qualified for the Olympics, so for us, it's about preparing for November and getting everything we can right to prepare us for that.

"And there's no better way than to play against the best. It's timed really well in terms of our preparation, so it's our first real hitout for this season."

Australia will play pool matches against England, New Zealand and South Africa - a massive challenge that Walsh welcomed.

"We've got a great pool, we've got England, New Zealand and South Africa in our pool, which is exactly what we want, actually," Walsh said.

Maurice Longbottom in action in Paris. Photo: World Rugby

"There's never an easy game in the World Series but when you've got the top eight teams as well, it's a certainty that there's no easy games.

"And it's the kind of preparation we need going into a pretty important tournament in the Olympic qualifier in Oceania."

The Aussies will send a full-strength team to Munich, although Lewis Holland, Maurice Longbottom and Henry Hutchison will be missing due to injury.

Sprinter Trae Williams was not considered, with Walsh saying it was too big an ask to throw the prize recruit into the deep end while he was still learning the game.

But Tom Cusack will make his first sevens appearance since the Rio Games, while New Zealand product Josh Turner will make his debut after gaining citizenship.

"He's been in our squad for a year now but he hasn't been able to play because he hasn't had an Australian passport," Walsh said.

"Two weeks ago he got his citizenship and his Australian passport which now makes him eligible to go to the Olympics.

"Despite Joshy being around us for a long time, he's never been capped, so we're actually very excited to see him and with Moz (Longbottom) and Lewy (Holland) both out, expect to see Josh to get a lot of minutes and really make a statement in the sevens game and within this team as well."

Tom Cusack will play for the Brumbies next year. Photo: Getty Images

In Holland's absence, Nick Malouf will captain the team in Munich.

"(We've picked) a very strong team. Everything is geared towards the first goal of the season, which is to qualify (for Tokyo) and the World Series and then hopefully it moves on to the Olympics," Walsh said.

"So we've using it as a warm-up, certainly with combinations but also managing players.

"It's basically the best team that we've got with a couple of players there to get more game time and push for (Oceania) selection."