Aussie Sevens under pressure on home soil

Australia Rugby Sevens captain Ed Jenkins (left), and New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson pose for a photograph with the Sydney Sevens trophy. Photo: AAP Image/Paul Miller.
Australia Rugby Sevens captain Ed Jenkins (left), and New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson pose for a photograph with the Sydney Sevens trophy. Photo: AAP Image/Paul Miller.

A sellout house and the return of some experienced campaigners will give Australia no excuses if it fails to advance past the Plate stage of the IRB Sevens in Sydney this weekend.

With the Rio Olympics fast approaching - where the sport will make its Games debut - head coach Andy Friend will expect Australia to push into the semi-finals after its third consecutive Plate appearance in Wellington last weekend.

With captain Ed Jenkins, try-scoring machine Cameron Clark and Wallabies winger Henry Speight returning, the Thunderbolts should be ready to put in their best performance of the World Series at Allianz Stadium, which had sold out even before last weekend's tournament in New Zealand.

Australia has drawn in Pool A alongside New Zealand, Portugal and Canada. The All Blacks staged an astonishing late flourish to run down South Africa in the final in Wellington last Sunday, showing how much a home-ground advantage could be worth.

While Speight will play his first Sevens tournament at home, Queensland's Quade Cooper missed selection in Friend's squad.

With only one training run after jetting in from Paris this week, Friend opted to omit the 58-Test veteran, who will most likely debut in round five in Las Vegas next month.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Quade will be a tremendous addition to the squad as we build towards Rio," Friend said. "But due to circumstances which were beyond Quade's control, and our control, he just couldn't get enough work in this week with the team."



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