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Super boost for Oz Sevens

Fri, 31 May 2013 10:19
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We would be mad not to take them
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Australian Sevens captain Ed Jenkins will lead an experienced squad to the World Cup Sevens which features three current Super Rugby players.

Australian coach Michael O'Connor has named his squad for the World Cup in Moscow, with a wealth of experience coming to the fore ahead of the tournament in June, where his side will face France, Spain and Tunisia in pool play.

In addition to three current Super Rugby players, the squad features four members of Australia's silver medal-winning 2010 Commonwealth Games side, five members of last year's side that won the Tokyo Sevens and two players with previous World Cup Sevens experience.

Joining former captain Bernard Foley from Super Rugby is Waratahs teammate Matt Lucas and Reds flyer Luke Morahan.

Foley has two seasons of Sevens experience, including one as captain, and was part of the Australian side that claimed silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. In just two seasons Foley scored 266 points in the 16 tournaments he participated in for Australia.

Lucas was with the Australian Sevens program last season, before signing with the Waratahs, and kicked the crucial conversion to secure Australia's 28-26 win over Samoa at the Tokyo Sevens.

The third Super Rugby Player included in O'Connor's squad, Morahan, has ample Sevens experience, having travelled to Dubai for World Cup Sevens 2009 and played a part in the silver medal-winning side at the Commonwealth Games.

He most recently joined the Australian Sevens squad at the Oceania Sevens Championships and Gold Coast Sevens tournaments in late 2012.

O'Connor has named four other backs alongside the three Super Rugby players, to make up a five-seven split. Cam Clark, Lewis Holland, James Stannard and Shannon Walker - all regulars of the Australian Sevens program - have all gained selection.

While he made his debut in early 2012, injury ruled Clark out for most of last season, but he has since become a regular fixture in the team, playing in all but one World Series tournament this season.

Holland has just finished his third and most comprehensive season with the Australian Sevens program, competing in all but one tournament on the World Series and contributing 187 points over the seven tournaments.

Stannard is another high scorer, who returned to the Australian Sevens program earlier this year following three seasons in Super Rugby with the Western Force and then a season with Shokki in Japan's Top League. He is the highest scorer in the squad with 478 points in 12 appearances.

This season was Walker's second in Sevens, after making the transition from the rugby league in 2011-12.

Seasoned campaigner Ed Jenkins leads both the forward pack and the side in Moscow.

The 27-year-old captain is the most capped in the squad, with 27 tournaments under his belt, including World Cup Sevens 2009, the 2010 Commonwealth Games and tournament wins in London in 2010 and Tokyo in 2012.

Jenkins played just two tournaments in the 2012-13 season, after injuring his shoulder on the Gold Coast, but has returned to full health and proved he was ready for the challenge playing in London earlier this month.

Rounding out the forwards are Tom Cusack, Con Foley, Sean McMahon and Jesse Parahi.

Cusack made his debut earlier this year and, in just four tournaments, has made a name for himself as a powerful ball runner.

Foley brings two years' experience and played in all but one tournament over the last two years, missing the Tokyo Sevens last season. He twice captained the Australian Sevens during the 2012-13 season.

McMahon is also in his second season with the Australian Sevens after making his debut as a teenager. He was one of five members of the squad that experienced success at the Tokyo Sevens last year.

Parahi is a bull of a forward who brings a huge work rate and a wealth of experience, with 19 caps to his name, including tournament wins in London in 2010 and Tokyo in 2012.

In selecting his squad, O'Connor has utilised players with prior 'big-game' experience and said being able to welcome the Super Rugby players back to the fold was a plus.

"All three of these guys have excelled in Sevens and the fact that they're available, we would be mad not to take them," O'Connor said.

"They're quality players and the reality is we would have liked them to have remained in the Sevens program to begin with, so to have them back in the squad for the World Cup is a great opportunity.

"This is a fairly experienced squad. It's not the most experienced that will be over there, but certainly from our perspective we've got a lot of great leaders in this squad and experience is critical at this level."

O'Connor also welcomed the return of captain Jenkins to full health and said his presence alone would boost the players around him.

"Ed's a highly competitive player and he leads by example. He just brings that hard edge to the side. He's the type of player that other teams don't like to play against," O'Connor said.

O'Connor said the tournament was not dissimilar to the Hong Kong Sevens, with the 24-team format creating added pressure in the pool stage, with France, Spain and Tunisia all offering different challenges.

"If you don't finish first in your pool, not only do you have to win, but you have to win by a good margin to ensure a healthy points difference to qualify for the quarters," O'Connor said.

"Every team at this World Cup will be dangerous. France are one of the most unpredictable sides on the World Series. They have some really dangerous players and they know how to win games.

"Spain's players spend a lot of time together and they've learnt a lot from playing in Europe and being a core team. Their improvement has shown this year and they're another danger.

"Tunisia are not to be underestimated, that's for sure. They've made it to the World Cup so you've got to be wary of them."

The Australian Sevens World Cup squad will assemble at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre in Casuarina from 10-14 June and again at the Sydney Academy of Sport in Narrabeen from 18-19 June. They depart for World Cup Sevens 2013 on 20 June.

Australian Sevens squad: Cam Clark, Tom Cusack, Bernard Foley, Con Foley, Matt Lucas, Lewis Holland, Ed Jenkins (captain), Sean McMahon, Luke Morahan, Jesse Parahi, James Stannard, Shannon Walker.

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