Australian Rugby Sevens coach Michael O’Connor has welcomed the timely return of three key players from injury for the final legs of the IRB Sevens World Series in London and Edinburgh. Yet he will have to do without half his squad who have particiapted thus far on the 09/10 World Series due to call-ups to the Australian Under-20 World Cup team.
Australian Rugby Sevens coach Michael O’Connor has welcomed the timely return of three key players from injury for the final legs of the IRB Sevens World Series in London and Edinburgh.
Yet he will have to do without half his squad who have particiapted thus far on the 09/10 World Series due to call-ups to the Australian Under-20 World Cup team.
Eye-catching performances from Ed Quirk, Liam Gill, Kimami Sitauti, Robbie Coleman and Dominic Shipperely on the international Sevens arena has seen them earn selection in coach David Nucifora’s squad for the IRB Junior World Championships in Argentina in June.
The five teenagers will sit out the London (22-23 May) and Edinburgh (29-30 May) tournaments with O’Connor’s blessing and will remain candidates for October’s Commonwealth Games team.
Australia are currently in fourth place on the overall Sevens Series standings and is well-placed to record its best season result since 2002.
Sevens Series regulars Bernard Foley and Clinton Sills return for Twickenham after recovering from injuries sustained in Las Vegas in mid-February, while Nick Phipps will make his long-awaited comeback from a broken ankle.
Sills held the mantle as Australia’s leading try-scorer (15) before injury struck. In his absence Brackin Karauria-Henry has piled on 11 tries in two tournaments to be the current pace-setter with 21.
Newcomers Daniel Yakopo and Jesse Parahi are set to make their Australian Sevens debuts while seasoned Sevens campaigner Ed Jenkins returns to the squad after a year’s hiatus through injury.
O’Connor says he will use the final two events of the IRB Sevens to blood new players and combinations.
“This time last year we trialled some guys to try to increase the player pool, and it proved worthwhile, with Patrick McCutcheon and James Stannard going on to be regular players this year,” O’Connor says.
“We’ve got a couple of new faces in Yakopo and Parahi but also some key experience returning to the team.
“With a lot of the players away with the 20s, it opens up opportunities for other player to step up.”
Halfback Stannard says Australia’s results during the London leg of the Series will prove crucial to their season.
“I think we’re a big chance in London, we’ve got a strong squad and with Phippsy and Foley coming back and with the speed that Sills has out wide, we’re a really good chance,” Stannard says.
“Our season really comes down to this tournament, England are pretty close behind us and you’ve got to think they’ll be a real threat at their home tournament.
“I guess we have to want it more than them. We’re not far off.”
Sevens captain McCutcheon, Ed Stubbs, Karauria-Henry and Coleman and have made their Investec Bank Super 14 debuts in the in recent weeks while Gill, Quirk, Shipperley and Sitauti have signed with the Queensland Reds for the 2011 Super Rugby season.
Samoa lead the IRB Sevens World Series standings following three consecutive Cup Final victories in Hong Kong, Adelaide and Las Vegas.
The Pacific Islanders are three points clear heading into the final two events on the eight-leg Series ahead of New Zealand (121), Fiji (94), Australia (78) and England (74).
Darwin rewarded with FORU qualifier
Darwin is set to host a qualifying leg for for the FORU (Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions) as nations battle it out to win places Hong Kong, Wellington and Adelaide events on the next IRB Sevens World Series.
Nine nations have reportedly confirmed for the FORU tournament that is set for October 1-3 at Darwin's AUSTAR Rugby Park.
It is a major coup for Darwin who have hosted the hugely successful ‘Hottest Sevens’ International Invitational event in January for numerous years.
Michael O'Connor's national side will use the three-day tournament as a lead-in event before the Delhi Games and also spend 10 days in the Northern Territory as preparation.
Australian Sevens squad for London and Edinburgh: Patrick McCutcheon (capt), James Stannard, Nick Phipps, Jacob Taylor, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Bernard Foley, Ed Jenkins, Ed Stubbs, Jesse Parahi, Daniel Yakopo, Clinton Sills, Sam Latunipulu.