Perth ‘bubble’ to test Olympics-bound sevens squads
Murray Wenzel |
Australia’s gold-hunting rugby sevens teams will use Perth’s world series pressure-cooker to test their Olympic ambitions.
Both teams will enter July’s Paris Games with legitimate podium cases.
The men won a maiden world title in 2022, while the women claimed the World Series, World Cup and Commonwealth Games triple-crown in the same year.
But competition is hot in the super-charged rugby code and the margin for error is narrow.
“We call this the performance bubble,” women’s captain and Rio 2016 gold medallist Charlotte Caslick said.
“It’s about making sure everything inside that bubble is where it needs to be.
“We’re getting that right and (Perth) is the perfect time to trial things.”
Australia’s world-series leg – the third of an eight-event season – will kick-off in Perth from Friday after a stint in Sydney in recent years.
The women have won both previous tournaments this year while the men dusted themselves off from a disappointing Dubai opener to claim second in Cape Town in December.
“The home tournament is always the benchmark … and it’s good practice with the added pressure in an Olympic year,” Caslick said.
“There’s moments with a young group where we haven’t handled them that well.
“If we need to make any (tactical) changes we can sort it out this weekend.”
Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper won’t make his sevens debut as hoped in Perth, with coach John Manenti hopeful of trialling his new toy in Vancouver in late February.
The squad is still stacked though, with Henry Hutchison back from a long-term knee injury and Darby Lancaster hunting an Olympic gig after being released from Super Rugby duties with Melbourne.
“It just gets faster every year,” men’s captain Nick Malouf said of the standard of play.
“Instead of having 12 guys in the squad we’re building one of 20, which puts pressure on Johnny (Manenti) and Chucky (assistant James Stannard) to pick the side.
“And I can tell you it’s easily the hardest they’ve had to think about selection.”AAP