Australia Sevens team given Olympic wake-up call
Australia’s men’s side have failed to register a win over their Olympics counterparts New Zealand and Fiji at the Oceania Sevens tournament but insist there were lessons to be learned.
Australia started strong in their final hit-out against New Zealand, but endured an ill-disciplined slide late in the game to allow the Kiwis to run away with victory 17-5 in Townsville on Sunday.
Their last scheduled game of the three-day tournament against an Oceania selection was called off to prevent the risk of injuries just weeks out from the Olympics
Australia coach Tim Walsh said despite the results there was plenty gained for the event.
“You’re never losing, you’re learning,” he told AAP.
“From a selection point of view, game time against some great teams, we didn’t get the win(s), we came close and we’ll save it for the Olympics.”
Walsh said the tournament had helped in addressing some issues for his team and finalising selections.
Discipline will be a particular focus in the men’s medal aspirations next month, with sin bins shifting momentum in their weekend fixtures.
Walsh now has the week ahead to finalise his 12-man team for Tokyo, to be announced on July 2.
“We’re just about there but we’ve got a pretty heavy (injury) toll at the moment,” he said.
“We’ve played a lot of footy over the weekend, so we have to be pretty strategic in how we keep an eye on the bigger picture being Tokyo.”
The task facing the Australian women’s team in defending the inaugural Olympic title won in 2016 was highlighted when they lost to New Zealand by 34-5 then 26-5 in their rematch.
Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman starred for the Black Ferns as the Aussies failed to contain the physicality and cohesiveness of their opposition.
The Australians also suffered an upset defeat to Fiji on Saturday and will need to focus on their defensive woes ahead of Tokyo next month.
Head coach John Manenti said the results may not show it, but he saw positives with the squad’s improvement.
“I thought we stepped up across the park with our whole performance,” he said.
“We worked really hard and made them work hard for their tries…we asked a few questions to them and probably should have asked a couple more.
“But ultimately, I thought we were much better tonight than we have been against New Zealand for a little while.”
Fiji remained undefeated through the tournament to take out the men’s competition, while New Zealand’s Black Ferns won all of their matches on their way to the Oceania Sevens title.
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