The 16 squads participating in the men’s competition at the HSBC Sydney Sevens on 1-2 February have today been announced.
Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium will host 16 men’s and 12 women’s international rugby sevens teams for the first time this weekend as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series returns to Sydney for another action-packed two days.
Sydney is the fourth tournament in the men’s competition this season following a spectacular event in Hamilton, New Zealand, last weekend where the hosts were victorious in both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Hosts Australia have made two changes to their squad after Ben O’Donnell picked up a knee injury in Hamilton, with speedster Trae “Quadzilla” Williams and Lachie Miller coming in.
Luke Morahan has been named 13th man after linking up with the squad this week from his English Premiership club Bristol Bears to try and put himself in contention for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Australian fans will have a first-hand look at Williams this weekend, which head coach Tim Walsh believes will bring X-factor to the team.
"To have the fastest player in world rugby there, ready to ignite the engine is pretty special," Walsh said.
"We have to as a team manipulate it and work out a way we can put him in that space, and allow him to use his point of difference.
"So we have been working pretty hard and Trae certainly has been and he has earned his spot here to further push his case for selection going forward.”
The Australians will also be celebrating a milestone this weekend as Jesse Parahi will make his 50th world series appearance when he runs out onto the turf at Bankwest Stadium.
Drawn in Pool C, Australia will play USA, Scotland and Japan. Scotland have made one change with last week’s 13th man Nyle Godsmark being called up and USA making two. Marcus Tupuola and Cody Melphy will pull on the USA jersey in Sydney and head coach Mike Friday has named Ben Pinkelman as captain with Madison Hughes moving to 13th man.
Elsewhere, invitational team Japan have named a completely new side to Hamilton as their team prepares for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this summer after qualifying as hosts.
New Zealand, who have won two of the three tournaments so far this season, lifted the HSBC Sydney Sevens trophy in 2019. Head coach Clark Laidlaw has made two changes with last weekend’s 13th man Salesi Rayasi being called into the 12-man squad and Caleb Clarke coming in for his third world series outing as they go without Joe Webber for this tournament.
Co-captain Tim Mikkelson will equal DJ Forbes as the most capped All Blacks Sevens player with this weekend becoming his 89th tournament. This milestone will also see Mikkelson, alongside England’s Dan Norton, become the joint second most capped players in world series history, four behind interim England Sevens head coach and former player James Rodwell.
The All Blacks Sevens will face Kenya, Wales and Fiji in Pool A with Mikkelson commenting that their clash against Fiji will be an “epic” encounter.
“New Zealand versus Fiji is always a different battle on the sevens pitch,” he said.
“The boys always look forward to playing against Fiji and it’s always an epic battle. Obviously they haven’t had great results this year but no doubt whenever they play the black jersey, they get up for it.”
Kenya have made one change bringing Herman Humwa into the side aftrer he was 13th man in Hamilton and Fiji also make one change which sees Alasio Naduva called up and Apensia Cakaubalavu named as the injury replacement.
Wales make two changes calling up James McCarthy for only his second cap and Will Jones will make his world series debut.
Pool B features Hamilton runners-up France, Argentina, South Africa and Samoa with South Africa the only side to name an unchanged squad in this pool.
France sit third on the series standings after medalling in the past two events, earning bronze in Cape Town and silver in Hamilton, and make two changes to their squad for Sydney.
Antoine Zeghdar, who was named as 13th man last weekend, has been called into the 12-player squad alongside William Iraguha with Jonathan Laugel standing in as injury replacement, while Stephen Parez is set to play his 50th series tournament in Sydney. Samoa have called Phillip Luki up into the squad alongside Tuna Tuitama who was last week’s 13th player with Paul Scanlan this week’s travelling reserve.
South Africa’s Justin Geduld holds the record for the most points at an event in Sydney after he scored 56 points in 2018 and will also play his 50th world series tournament this weekend.
In Pool D, England name Will Hendy in their 12-player squad with Alfie Johnson playing the role of 13th man and Canada will field a consistent squad to Hamilton, while Spain and Ireland both make one change.
Spain’s Javier Carrion has earned a call-up into the 12-man squad with Alejandro de la Rosa moving to 13th man, while Ireland, whose squad features Jordan Conroy – the leading try-scorer this season with 15 – moving Liam Turner into the side in place of new 13th man Mark Roche.
The action gets underway at 11:57 local time (GMT+11) at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday when USA take on Scotland.