Aussie Sevens coach Friend rings the changes for Vancouver
8 March 2016
RUGBY SEVENS: Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens Head Coach Andy Friend has freshened up his squad by making five changes for the inaugural Canada Sevens in Vancouver this weekend (13-14 March).
In-form playmaker Lewis Holland is recalled to the 12-man squad and is in line to win his 30th World Series cap after being rested for Las Vegas last weekend while experienced schemer James Stannard also returns to the fold.
Quade Cooper, who made a successful Sevens World Series debut in the USA, has been granted permission by his French Top 14 club side Toulon to play at the sold-out BC Place Stadium.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old loose forward Conor Mitchell will make his Australian Sevens bow this weekend. Mitchell played for the Thunderbolts representative side at January’s Coral Coast Sevens after impressing in last year’s National Rugby Championship for Queensland Country.
Tom Lucas (knee) and Pat McCutcheon (hamstring) join an injury list that includes Nick Malouf (knee), Pama Fou (shoulder), Simon Kennewell (ankle), Sam Figg (virus) and Tom Cusack (wrist).
Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens Head Coach Andy Friend said: “The team performed well last weekend [in Las Vegas] but this series doesn’t wait around and as a squad we have to look forward. We want to be playing for World Series points at the top end of the table and in order to do so we need to consistently qualify for Cup Semi-Finals, Cup Finals and ultimately win Cup Finals.
“We’ve decided to freshen things up for Vancouver in order to give players additional experience and to manage workloads. I feel we’re building a genuine depth in our player pool at the moment and we’re slowly getting to a stage where we can count on any of the players in the program to step into the breach.”
Australia has been drawn in Pool B for the Canada Sevens alongside Russia, hosts Canada and Wales.
Friend added: “We’re playing teams who will be hungry to turn us over. Russia are newcomers who are beginning to find their feet while we know what the effect of a home crowd can have on you from our experience in Sydney. It lifts everyone and that makes Canada particularly dangerous. Wales did well in Vegas, meanwhile, to win what was a competitive Bowl competition.
“It’s exciting times for us, but at the same time, we’re taking things game-by-game. There is no other way or you run a big risk of falling short against any country.”
After making successive Cup Finals in Sydney and Las Vegas, Australia currently sits fourth in the 2015-16 Sevens World Series standings after five rounds, nine points behind third-placed New Zealand.
Stephan Van Der Walt
Australian Rugby Union