Australian fans will almost certainly have their first look at Trae “Quadzilla” Williams in the opening two tournaments of the 2019-20 World Series.
Former sprinter Trae Williams turned his back on hopes of competing in athletics at the Tokyo Olympics to vie for a Sevens spot and coach Tim Walsh says he’s progressing well beyond expectations.
Williams signed with the side in May and is yet to feature in an international tournament but Walsh said he was well in the frame to play in either one of the season-opening Dubai leg or in Cape Town a week later.
“Looking and hoping we'll get Trae debuting in either Dubai or Cape Town,” he said.
“He's just applied himself to the game and this team incredibly well, a lot faster than we actually anticipated.
“He's an elite athlete and he took everything that he needed to do for his athletics, I guess, and their minute details in how they prepare and looking for that one percenter.
“He took that and adapted it to rugby, very quiet achiever but works incredibly hard and from a rugby awareness point of view, he excelled where we thought he was at.”
While speed was never going to be an issue for the man with iconic legs, Walsh said Williams’ work in contact and without the ball loomed as a surprise strength.
“His defence is probably going to be one of his strengths and that's pretty big saying when he runs a 10.1 for 100m,” he said.
“Just trying to combine it and get a real, get combinations with him and get him out there to be the fastest rugby player in the world.”
Williams’ blooding is part of a plan Walsh is keen to embark on after they sewed up Olympic qualification with their Oceania Sevens win last weekend.
Walsh said he was glad to have thrown Plan B in the bin with their Tokyo berth secured and be able to focus on putting everything into their Olympic tilt.
“We've got a really deep squad now as well with experienced players coming through and then bringing in guys like Rod Davies as well and then young guns or debuts in Trae Williams and then guys coming through like Locky Miller, Matt Hood and Quinny have all racked up some caps now, very strong World Series players,” he said.
“I think it's going to have a really good balance on number of tournaments and players being able to peak at different times.”
Had they missed out on that Tokyo spot in Fiji, Australia would have been forced into a repechage next June, just one month out from the Olympics.
With that danger now avoided, the World Series becomes even more significant, with history showing that the season’s best performers generally convert that into Olympic success.
As they embark on that, Walsh said they could take some pivotal lessons from their Oceania tournament in Suva last weekend.
While they won a gripping qualifying final over Samoa, Walsh said it was their championship-winning clash with Fiji that would be their most instructive heading into a critical year.
“That's the process they went through there was to go through the high-pressure Samoa game and win and then go to the Fiji game with basically no pressure and win and then they have that instant comparison on how, they can remember how they felt during that Fiji game and how they need to get into that state, to do it again and again,” he said.
“It was a really valuable game which we didn't really consider it being such an influence on the team until after but I think it's going to put us in very good learning state to say that we've been there in that situation and know how it feels.”
The 2019 Dubai Sevens kick off on Thursday December 5, running until Saturday December 7.