Holland testing the XVs waters ahead of Olympics

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Sevens veteran and new Rebels recruit Lewis Holland hopes he will still have the chance for an Olympic berth in 2021 with uncertainty still surrounding Australia's plans for the squads.

Holland and teammate Lachie Anderson have signed with the Rebels for the Super Rugby AU competition with the Sevens World Series events all postponed or cancelled and little clarity on when tournaments will be able to resume.

The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to kick off at the end of July, have been postponed until 2021, but whether any World Series events will take place as normal before that remains to be seen.

Australia's players are all on significant pay cuts through to the end of September and for Sevens players that timeline complicates things, with the bulk of the squads' contracts expiring on August 30 in line with the Olympic cycle.

What the schedule and the program looks like going forward is also under question after discussions about decentralising the Sevens squads were raised earlier this year.

Until more is known about the future, players are simply working to get themselves on the field and many of the men's squad are likely to return to club rugby in the coming weeks for match fitness.

Holland and Lachie Anderson have signed with the Rebels while skipper Nick Malouf has been training with the Waratahs in recent weeks.

"The majority of the boys are still training at the moment but it's more just specifics-based, what they want to achieve, if they want to get bigger or stronger, faster, fitter, more skillful, Walshy's been really adaptable in regards to that area and trying just to make the athlete a better person at the moment and then they'll filter back into club rugby," he said.

"Nick Malouf and another one of the boys have gone and trained with the Waratahs for a couple of weeks so I think those opportunities will pop up and I think you'll see a few more boys float in and out but I definitely think there'll be big, heavy presence in club rugby when that kicks off.

Despite the uncertainty around the Sevens program, Holland said he hoped that he would still be able to play in Tokyo next year.

"I think just at the moment with the Sevens program in regards to where it stands, with the pay cuts and coronavirus and COVID travelling it's just a little bit unsure at the moment," Holland said.

"Hopefully that opportunity with the Olympics still pops up and we can take a competitive team over there and win a gold medal. In the meanwhile, we're yet to hear what that kind of program's going to look like going forward. Full investment down here until those decisions come up.

The 27-year-old said he had always planned to look at making the switch to XVs post-Tokyo and this time in Melbourne will give him a taste of that life.

"If the Olympics and all goes well this year, I had every intention to come across and play XVs," he said.

"I tried to do it a couple of times but just through injury and other things, the time I wanted to go I couldn't have gone.

"I definitely had all intentions to cross over and give XVs a crack after, if you can call it the 2020 Olympics, but now with the coronavirus coming up I think this opportunity is great.

"Dave has been open for me to come down here and train and see what I can do. If there's a bad thing, try and find a positive and this is it."

Holland is playing XVs for the first time in close to five years and is likely to slot in the centres or fullback.

"I've been training at 12 at the moment just so you can get your hands on the ball but you're not necessarily running the show which is good.

"You can kind of come in, come out but also run the ball as well which I like to do.

"So, 12 probably at the moment and just file around, play wherever just to get a different look - you're playing on the wing, you can see how the 12 plays so you can just learn as you go."

Rebels attack coach Shaun Berne said he was excited by the addition of Holland to the squad.

"I've only seen him training with us for about a week or so, only done four or five sessions with him but you straight away see a guy with a good skill set that is aware of what he brings to the team," he said.

"He's constantly a threat for defence because he's just looking for space, he's looking to pass, he's looking to run, he's got that kicking game and that's what you want from your midfielders and your backs. He's bringing that to the table."

The Rebels take on the Brumbies at GIO Stadium on Saturday July 4, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports.