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'I think that's a cop out': Aussie 7s coach not buying New Zealand's loser talk

By Finn Morton
Australia captain Charlotte Caslick with coach Tim Walsh after winning the Dubai Sevens in December. Picture: World Rugby.

The phrase ‘do the jersey justice’ has become synonymous with New Zealand rugby. For all the prestige, pressure and scrutiny that comes with wearing a black jersey on the rugby field, there’s a responsibility to leave the shirt in a better place than when you found it.

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Both the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens have a history of championship success around the world, but this season hasn’t quite gone to script from the outside looking in.

The Black Ferns Sevens, who won every Cup final last season except for one, had their 41-game unbeaten streak snapped by arch-rivals Australia in Dubai late last year. New Zealand were beaten in the semis in Cape Town and the quarter-finals in Perth.

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Sam Dickson talks to RugbyPass about the All Blacks Sevens early exit | Perth SVNS

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Sam Dickson talks to RugbyPass about the All Blacks Sevens early exit | Perth SVNS

It’s been a whole lot tougher for the men’s team, though. The All Blacks Sevens reached the heights of the final four in Dubai but hadn’t come close to repeating that feat since.

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After a win over Australia in pool play at SVNS Cape Town, 2023 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Leroy Carter told RugbyPass that the team was “not trying to be the best at the moment.”

The All Blacks Sevens’ focus at the stage, according to Carter, was “to be the best in a couple of months’ time at the Olympics.”

New Zealand were fortunate to make the quarter-finals that weekend after finishing third in their pool. Tough times followed at the next tournament in Perth as the Kiwis finished ninth overall.

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Sevens veteran Sam Dickson, who will captain the team in Vancouver, echoed Carter’s comments after New Zealand’s final match in Perth by telling this outlet: “We’re slowly building towards the Olympics, the Olympics is our main goal.”

But before a ball is kicked, a try scored, or a whistle blown at the series’ next stop in Vancouver, Australia women’s coach Tim Walsh had clear thoughts on the sentiment of those comments.

“I think that’s what you’re saying when you’re losing, to be honest. I can’t imagine any New Zealand team saying that ever,” Walsh told RugbyPass.

“I think that’s one of the things around New Zealand is that they always try and be the best they can be at the time.

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“For us, that’s exactly what we do.  We have a very strategic plan to be peaking at the right time as well. We go out in every tournament to try and win but we might be overdone or underdone at certain tournaments.

“But if we still go out there and win it then great because that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Australian women’s seven side currently sit in pole position on the overall SVNS Series standings. With two wins from three tournaments, there’s no question who the team to beat is ahead of SVNS Vancouver from Friday to Sunday.

There has only been a handful of blemishes on their otherwise sensational so far, with unwanted red cards to Levi sisters Maddison and Teagan disrupting the team’s momentum and cohesion at their home event in Perth last month.

But they’re at the top of the overall standings – there’s some daylight between them and second-place New Zealand too. It’s where every team would like to be.

“I think that’s a cop out,” Walsh continued. “I hear that every year or every Olympic cycle, every cycle.

“If you’re going to win a tournament, the one you want to win is the Olympics but in order to do that you need to prepare well and play and get that winning feeling.

“You look at all the Olympics, and there’s only been a couple (with rugby sevens) I know, but the in-form teams generally go and win or at least medal.

“Our philosophy is probably no different to anyone else’s.

“We respect the World Series and respect playing for our country. Every single time we’re trying to win and we’re also trying to get better and we’re also trying to peak at the right times.”

The SVNS Series heads to North America later this month with stops in Vancouver and LA. After the stop in Canada, SVNS LA is from March 1 to 3 and tickets can be bought HERE.

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