Australia head coach Andy Friend has called on the experience of Ed Jenkins, Nick Malouf and Tom Lucas for the forthcoming rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Las Vegas and Vancouver.
The trio have a combined 74 caps of experience to help bolster Friend's youthful Australia outfit who currently sit sixth in the standings. Jenkins returns for the first since Cape Town following a shoulder injury, while Malouf and Lucas will also make their much-anticipated comebacks, with the former having endured an extended lay-off following Rio 2016. They replace Charlie Taylor, Simon Kennewell and Michael Adams in the squad.
Australia made the final four at the HSBC Sydney Sevens, their best performance of the 2016-17 series to-date, but lost out to eventual winners South Africa 26-12 in the semi-finals.
“Our top four finish at the HSBC Sydney Sevens gave our young guys a boost of confidence and they have worked hard since to continue their improvement.
“Welcoming Ed, Nick and Tom back into the side will add some extra experience to the squad and will give our young guys a great opportunity to continue to learn from those experienced players.
“Our younger players are continuing to learn the game of Sevens and conditioning themselves for the rigours of the World Series and we expect to see continued improvement from the team.”
Australia has been drawn in Pool D and will face Fiji, Japan and Scotland. The campaign kicks off against Scotland at 11.31am AEDT Saturday 4 March. All games will be broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.
Australia squad for Las Vegas: Henry Hutchison, Liam McNamara, Sam Myers (c), Alex Gibbon, James Stannard, Tate McDermott,Tim Anstee, Tom Lucas, Ed Jenkins, Nick Malouf, Brandon Quinn, Lachie Anderson
Fiji Chase First Tournament Win
Fiji head coach Gareth Baber has named three changes to his squad to contest the Las Vegas and Vancouver legs of the world series as the reigning series and Olympic champions chase their first tournament win of 2016-17.
Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Apisai Domolailai and Waisea Nacuqu return to the fold as Baber opted for the bulk of the same squad who finished fifth in Sydney earlier in February. Fiji are currently third in the standings, having lost two finals to South Africa in Dubai and Wellington.
“Selection for these two legs have been very competitive and I am pleased with the work that the players have put in over the last two weeks," said Baber. "Masivesi and Apisai come in and I am looking forward to seeing their leadership and points of difference on display over the next two legs. Also a return for Waisea who has been very impressive during our training sessions.”
Fiji squad for Las Vegas: Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Mesulame Kunavula, Sevuloni Mocenacagi, Nemani Nagusa, Apisai Domolailai, Kalione Nasoko, Setareki Butuniyata,
New Zealand head coach Scott Waldrom has recalled former World Rugby Sevens Rookie Player of the Year Ambrose Curtis for the next two rounds of the world series.
Curtis, who played for the Maori All Blacks in 2016 and last played sevens in 2015, is part of a largely unchanged 14-man New Zealand outfit for Las Vegas and Vancouver. Joe Webber, Sam Dickson, Lewis Ormond, Teddy Stanaway and Rocky Khan were unavailable for selection due to injury.
New Zealand are currently fourth in the series standings with their best performances coming in Cape Town and Sydney where they finished third at both tournaments.
“It’s great to have a largely settled squad to take to North America," said head coach Scott Waldrom. "The new players who debuted in the Wellington and Sydney tournaments have impressed this far, so it's good to keep giving them game time and experience.
“The team lifted their performance in Sydney after a disappointing tournament in Wellington. We showed in Sydney that we can compete against the top teams in the series, but in order for us to win Las Vegas we have to maintain our consistency. “As always with this sevens series pool play has its challenges. Russia won the Challenge Trophy in Sydney, Argentina beat us in Wellington and Kenya is always an exciting team to play against. We won’t be taking any of the matches for granted. We also face the challenge of a three day tournament which we haven’t had before in this series."
They will face Kenya, Russia and Argentina in Las Vegas.
New Zealand squad: Scott Curry (captain), Dylan Collier, Ambrose Curtis, DJ Forbes, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb, Vilimoni Koroi, Tim Mikkelson, Sione Molia, Tone Ng Shiu, Sherwin Stowers, Isaac Te Tamaki, Beaudein Waaka
Jerry Tuwai, Waisea Nacuqu, Vatemo Ravouvou, Alivereti Veitokani, Osea Kolinisau (C), Samisoni Viriviri, Joeli Lutumilagi
Aiono Back for Samoa
Samoa head coach Gordon Tietjens has named veteran Samoa star Afa Aiono and last year's captain Faalemiga Selesele in his squad to travel to Las Vegas and Vancouver in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Former skipper Aiono will lead Tietjens' side in Las Vegas, playing his first tournament since Port Elizabeth in 2014. Aiono made his debut in 2009, scoring 74 tries in 215 matches for Samoa and was part of their 2009-10 series-winning side.
“I’ve named a new captain, Afa Aiono,” Tietjens said. “He’s back. He wasn’t ready for the first two but he’s back from injury and played for Marist throughout the weekend.
“That’s the experience that I need because I need to bring these younger players through. He knows everything about what the jersey means to him. I think when they won the world series, he was one of the youngsters."
Selesele's return will also bolster Samoa's chances over the next two rounds, having led them to their first tournament win in Paris last year since Dubai in 2012. Samoa are 13th in the standings and their best finish so far was 10th place in Dubai.
"If you look at the team I have, they’re a very new side. Now all of a sudden, I’ve got Selesele to come back in. And to bring those younger players through, you need a core of experienced players to work with.
“For those first few tournaments, we’re talking about the most experienced players on this team being probably someone that’s into their second year. When you talk experience, it’s more like 40-50 tournaments."
Samoa squad for Las Vegas: Faalemiga Selesele, Afa Aiono, Lafaele Va’a, Tila Mealoi, Alex Samoa, Joe Perez, Samoa Toloa, Laaloi Leilua, Neria Foma’i, Elisapeta Alofipo, Alamanda Motuga, Danny Kayes, Lester Sefo, Savelio Ropati.