Wallabies spring tourist Nick Phipps has been named in coach Michael O’Connor’s Australian Sevens squad for the opening two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series, which gets underway in Dubai on 3-4 December.
Phipps, who was Wallaby coach Robbie Deans’s tour bolter for the seven-match tour through Hong Kong and Europe, made his debut off the bench in the mid-week Australian side’s 15-6 loss to Munster at Thomond Park.
The Melbourne Rebels recruit returns to the Sevens fold as one of four Commonwealth Games silver medallists in the 12-man squad - alongside new captain Bernard Foley, vice-captain Ed Jenkins and Shaun Foley.
The Delhi quartet will provide the experienced backbone in a largely inexperienced squad, which will compete in Dubai before also contesting the South African leg in George the following weekend.
O’Connor welcomes Phipps' return
“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.”
Dual international O'Connor is confident that his newlook squad will be competitive on the World Series after observing promising form at back-to-back tournaments in Queensland earlier this month.
“While we didn’t play Nick or Bernard, and Shaun didn’t get much game time, 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 learning 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 actually, I’ve got a new crop of players so it’s quite exciting.”
Onwards and upwards
Australia won the Plate final in Dubai in 2009 and will be looking to improve on that in Pool C where they will take on South Africa, Scotland and Russia, before playing Scotland, Wales and France in South Africa a week later.
Australia finished a commendable third overall last season to achieve their best World Series result since 2000/01 and O’Connor is expecting the same 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,” O’Connor 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.”
New captain Bernard Foley is hugely proud to have been chosen as successor to Pat McCutcheon and James Stannard.
“It’s a really big honour, 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.”
After the first two tournaments, the HSBC Sevens World Series moves on to events in Wellington, New Zealand, and Las Vegas, USA, in February before stops in Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland.
A change to the 2011 calendar sees the Hong Kong event in March preceed the Australian leg of the tournament, which will be staged at the Adelaide Oval on 2-3 April.
Tickets for the Adelaide event are on sale now through Ticketec www.ticketec.com.au
Australia Sevens squad: 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
Video - Australia: Tries - 2008/09 Series
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