Australia Men's Sevens coach John Manenti believes the brand-new 'SVNS' World Series will set the side up perfectly for a bid at a maiden Olympic medal.
The Australian sides have landed in Dubai ahead of the opening leg of the revamped competition.
With that comes a tweaked format for the men, bringing them in line with the women as the series reduces from 16 to 12. The top eight teams at the end of the season will then battle it out for the overall championship in Madrid.
The men's Series is arguably one of the most competitive Rugby competitions in the world, with five different winners in the opening five rounds of 2022-23.
This is only heightened by the reduction in teams, leaving three stacked pools of four for Dubai. Australia will have the deal with Ireland, Argentina and Spain, New Zealand drew South Africa, Canada and Samoa whilst Fiji have Olympic hosts France, Great Britain and the USA.
“It’s just going to be so highly competitive, it’s unbelievable,” Manenti said to Rugby.com.au.
“We’ve got Ireland, Argentina and Spain in our pool. Spain had a phenomenal year last just missing out on the top 12. Ireland, we always have ding-dong battles (with), played them seven or eight times and it’s probably 50/50 with them and Argentina are second in the world at the moment.
“That’s just our pool so only two teams are guaranteed out of the pool and the next best third so even game is tough. The way the new system works, you’ve got to finish in the top eight otherwise you’re in a repechage so every game is going to matter.
“I think it’s going to make for great competition and a great spectacle.
“The good thing is that it’ll be the same for the Olympics so by the time we get there we’re going to be used to dealing with the pressure of the format but you’re going to need to be consistent….It’s going to be a hell of a World Series.”
Manenti has been able to build a balanced squad for the 2023-24 Series, having issued through a host of new faces after injuries to Henry Hutchison, Nick Malouf and Maurice Longbottom in 2023.
Malouf (hip) and Longbottom are likely to be available for Dubai after overcoming knocks. whilst Hutchison will be pushing to be right for Perth along with new recruit Michael Hooper, who joins the squad at the start of 2024.
It leaves the Australians in a good position ahead of a crucial season, building towards the Paris Olympics in July. The Aussies have never made it to the semi-finals, with Manenti confident they are in a better place to handle any setbacks that come their way.
“I feel we’re heading in the right direction,” he believes.
“We finished fifth last year which is probably a fair indicator of where we are. The reality is we didn’t have the player depth last year, we lost Henry Hutchison for the end of the year, Nick Malouf missed about six tournaments and they’re our two most senior players along with Maurice Longbottom missing tournaments.
“We didn’t have adequate replacements for those guys but I feel we’ve got more depth in the squad. We’re going to get injuries but we feel better equipped to deal with that, not reliant on four of five guys. We’ve got as solid ten guys and then the next tier of guys are fighting to be in that group which is what we want.”