Aussie Sevens look to 2002 for inspiration

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 9 October 2012
 Aussie Sevens look to 2002 for inspiration
Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers both converted from rugby league to union

Australia Sevens head coach Michael O'Connor is hoping his side can win a first home Sevens tournament since 2002 at this weekend's Gold Coast Sevens. 

The first of nine rounds on the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series takes place at Skilled Park on 13-14 October, and O'Connor insists there is nothing better than starting the Series at home.

"It is fantastic to start here," said O'Connor.

"It is always difficult traveling, just for one tournament. For us it is ideal, we have prepared well and now we can just polish off for the weekend. There is an expectation to do well, but you would like to anyway, that goes without saying."

The last time, however, Australia won a World Series tournament on home soil was in 2002 when O'Connor was team manager and Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers made their first appearances in an Australian rugby union shirt having converted from Rugby League.

"I was manager in 2002 with Wendell and Matty, we had a cracking win in the final against New Zealand of all teams," added O'Connor, who also made the transition from league to union.

"That was memorable, there was a core side supplemented by these league players, but it has been 10 years now and we would certainly like to emulate that."

Australia win 2002 home tournament

The hosts face a tough pool on day one of the tournament, facing matches against Scotland, Tonga and defending champions Fiji.

But O'Connor believes his side are better prepared than before having also won the recent Oceania Sevens which saw them qualify for next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens.

"Fortunately we had a tournament to qualify for RWC Sevens, and that gave us an opportunity to get together about two months ago.

"We did well in that and are therefore a little ahead of comparison to previous years. We have also been able to hold onto a lot of players from last year so we are in pretty good shape.

"I believe we can win, we an it to win it. I think we will be better this year,  we go in with experience which is something we haven't done before."

10 years on from their last win on home soil with league converts Sailor and Rogers, the spotlight could fall on Shannon Walker who is another player to have made the same transition and played, like Rogers, for the Gold Coast Titans, whose home is Skilled Park.

"Shannon is a different sort of player, he is more flashy but a great ball carrier," added O'Connor.

"Wendall was tremendously hard working and a physical player who was imposing and hard to put down. In Sevens he was handy because invariably it would take two to three players to wrap him up.

"Shannon has a bit more x-factor when it comes to attack, but all of them are handy players. Shannon is a year wiser, and is understanding more having come from a pure league background. Sevens is definitely the beneficiary."

Related items

Gold Coast Sevens

Round 1
11-12 October 2014
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
City: Gold Coast
Capacity: 27,400

Pool A
Pool B
Pool C
Pool D
  • Fiji v Samoa
  • Fiji Gold Coast Sevens Cup winners
  • Jerry Tuwai - Gold Coast Sevens