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Australia sevens on the way up

Thursday, May 03, 2012

WITH the Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens now just days away, one nation riding on the crest of a wave is Australia, who were among the first teams to arrive in Scotland.

As things stand, the young Wallabies may only lie sixth in the HSBC Sevens World Series, but their stock rose dramatically last time out at round seven in Tokyo, where an injury-depleted outfit saw off the veterans of Samoa to clinch the Cup.

With competition levels increasing year on year, and almost month by month, tournaments are becoming ever more difficult to win. So how do they explain striking gold in Japan with just eight fit players?

"I think it came down to determination," said captain Ed Jenkins. "We felt as if we'd let ourselves down in Wellington and Vegas and to lose against England in Hong Kong the way we did (with the last play of the game in the Cup quarter final) we really felt we could go one further.

"We had the self belief that we could win a tournament. In Hong Kong such a small thing cost us the tournament so we knew we could turn it around."

They are sentiments echoed by his coach, Michael O'Connor: "The players showed a lot of character and desire with their backs to the wall. It was a real test of courage and fortunately the cards fell our way."

More recently, form and results have continued to be on their side. The Australians scored a morale-boosting 35-19 win against World Series leaders New Zealand last weekend in an exhibition match played as the pre-cursor to the Waratahs-Crusaders Round 10 FxPro Super Rugby clash.

And the record books also show that they tend to finish the season strongly: in 2010 they captured the London title and finished runners-up to eventual World Series champions Samoa in Edinburgh. And last year they again made the final at Murrayfield, falling agonisingly short and losing to South Africa in the last play of a pulsating tie.

"The last two years we've come away runners-up (in Scotland). We always seem to perform well in the last two tournaments of the season. Last year wasn't the result we wanted but I'm sure we can turn it around this year and go one better," reflected Jenkins, who is united with his coach in wanting a turbo-charged end to the season from his players.

"The maths are pretty simple - we're sitting in sixth with 80 points in the world standings, Samoa is fifth and they're on 101, so we really need two great tournaments in Glasgow and London to move us up the standings. I'll tell you one thing: we're not going to be holding back, that's for sure."

"The plan is to win every tournament we play," added O'Connor, "but it'd be nice to get a win here. It's not something that's weighing us down but, from a positive point of view, we've made the final the last two years."

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