Graham Croker


National selectors have plundered Sydney University’s rugby stocks in naming the 12-man Australian Sevens squad for the opening two legs of the 2010-11 Sevens World Series, which starts in Dubai next month.


Sydney University will provide half of squad, including new captain Bernard Foley and vice-captain Ed Jenkins, along with Nick Phipps, fresh from the Wallabies Spring tour, Trent Dyer, Michael Hodge and Greg Jeloudev.


Foley will take over the captaincy from Sydney University team-mate Pat McCutcheon, who is still on the Wallabies Spring Tour. He said he’s honoured to be chosen as McCutcheon’s successor as Sevens captain.


 “Captaining your country is not something that you get to do every day, so I’m just looking forward to getting out there and performing well,” Foley said.


“(Vice-captain) Ed’s been around for a couple of years now and he’s a really experienced player and a really good leader so I think we’ll work well together in leading a young squad which has a lot of new players.


“In the past couple of years we’ve probably gone into Dubai a bit underdone, but this year having the back-to-back lead-up tournaments, will give us a bit of a head start. There’s no substitute for game time so I think our preparation and time on the field will prove to be very beneficial.”


Australian Sevens coach Michael O’Connor said he’s confident his new-look squad will be competitive on the World Series circuit after showing some promising form at back-to-back tournaments in Queensland earlier this month.


“While we didn’t play Nick (Phipps) or Bernard, what the Gold Coast and Noosa Sevens tournaments gave me was an opportunity to play some of the new players rather than putting them in cold in Dubai,” O’Connor said.


“A lot of them are still leaning the game and are very raw but there are some encouraging signs for the team from an attitude point of view and their willingness to want to learn. I’m really looking forward to it. I have a new crop of players so it’s quite exciting.”


Australia won the Plate final in Dubai in 2009 and have every chance to improve on that result after being drawn in a favourable pool. In Pool C, Australia will take on South Africa, who they beat to reach the gold medal playoff at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, along with Scotland and Russia.


Coach O’Connor welcomed the return of Phipps, who was the bolter on the Wallabies’ seven match trip through Hong Kong and Europe. He made his debut off the bench in Australian’s mid-week 15-6 loss to Munster and was given a tour early mark when the squad was reduced for the final two matches.


The Melbourne Rebels recruit returns to the Sevens fold as one of four Commonwealth Games silver medallists, who feature in the 12-man squad.


The Delhi quartet will provide the experienced backbone in the largely inexperienced squad which will compete in Dubai on 2-3 December before contesting the South African tournament in George the following weekend.


“Nick didn’t get a lot of game time in Europe but the whole experience for him was fantastic,” O’Connor said. “He’s was really keen to come back and play, he’s had a season with us now and towards the end of the year he was just outstanding. He just offers so much energy and passion for the game. He’ll be great for the squad.”


Australia finished third overall last season to achieve their best Sevens World Series result since 2000-01 and four members of the Games squad – skipper Pat McCutcheon, from Sydney University, wingers Lachie Turner and Luke Morahan and Phipps – were rewarded with selection on the Wallabies Spring Tour.


O’Connor says he’s expecting the same kind of success this season. “You don’t want to go backwards in life and that’s the challenge to this squad now, last year’s squad did exceptionally well – they ended up getting us a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and they finished third on the World circuit and that was a good result,” he said.


“We’re not going to rest on our laurels, we want to at least reach the same heights and definitely stay on the top line of that draw. We don’t want to fall back to where we were. That’s the expectation this year, not to go backwards, it’s to stay up there and go forward.”


After the first two tournaments, the Sevens World Series moves on to events in New Zealand, the US in February before stops in Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland. A change to the 2011 calendar sees the Hong Kong event in March proceed the Australian leg of the tournament which will be staged at Adelaide Oval on 2-3 April.


The Australian squad is: Bernard Foley (captain), Ed Jenkins (vice-captain), Hamish Angus, Trent Dyer, Shaun Foley, John Grant, Michael Hodge, Greg Jeloudev, Tevita Kuridrani, Jono Lance, Nick Phipps, Dan Yakopo.