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Nawaqanitawase & Toole set for Paris as Australia name squads for Olympics

By Finn Morton
The Australian Men's Rugby Sevens team pose with their boarding passes to Paris during the Australian 2024 Paris Olympic Games Rugby Squad Announcement at Hubert Restaurant on July 03, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Wallaby Mark Nawaqanitawase and highly-rated Brumbies winger Corey Toole headline a talented Australia men’s squad for the upcoming Paris Olympics. The pair have been included in the 12-man group which was announced alongside the women’s squad on Wednesday afternoon in Sydney.

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Wearing green polos, which had the iconic Olympic rings on them, Nawaqanitawase and Toole joined the other 22 Australians set to represent the nation on the world’s biggest sporting stage at Sydney’s slice of France, being the Hubert restaurant in the CBD.

Both the men’s and women’s squads sat in anticipation as they waited for their names to be read out. If you scanned your eyes across the room, it was nigh on impossible to look past the hulking frame of Nawaqanitawase and the familiar face of Toole.

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Nawaqanitawase, who has signed on with the Sydney Roosters and was recently registered by the NRL to join the Tricolours after the Games, was one of the Wallabies’ best during last year’s Rugby World Cup disaster. But 9 months on, the winger wasn’t included in Joe Schmidt’s plans.

When coach Schmidt unveiled the first Australia 15s squad of the year, there wasn’t a place for the NRL-bound duo of ‘Marky Mark’ and Carter Gordon. That opened the door to sevens for the Wallaby and also Toole, who wasn’t selected so that the Brumbies speedster could participate at the Games.

“We’re delighted to announce the 2024 Paris Olympic squad – a squad that we’re confident will represent Australia with pride and performance,” coach John Manenti said.

“The group has over 330 World Series tournaments of experience, five previous Olympians and seven debutants.

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“We welcome Corey Toole and Mark Nawaqaniatwase back to the squad, both of whom have had seamless transitions and add an x-factor to our well-established combinations.

“We had a really good two weeks in Fiji and Darwin recently and that along with our solid season has the team really well prepared for Paris.”

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Toole was part of the Australia squad which won the nation’s first-ever SVNS Series overall title at the end of the 2021/22 season. Nawaqanitawase also has a background in rugby sevens after taking part in the Commonwealth Games squad in 2022.

The pair have been selected along with captain Nick Malouf and veteran Henry Hutchison, who are both set to compete at their third Games. Coach Manenti has also rewarded players for form and potential by picking seven Olympic debutants.

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Dietrich Roache, Hayden Sargeant, James Turner and Matt Gonzalez are among the others who were named after strong SVNS Series campaigns. As it’s been reported, there wasn’t a place for former Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper in the 12-man squad or as a travelling reserve.

“It’s been a huge squad effort over the last three years to put us in a really good place to compete in Paris,” captain Nick Malouf explained.

“John and the coaching staff have put together a really exciting group of quality men who I’m sure will make Australians proud.

“Within the group, we’ve got a nice blend of first, second, and third-time Olympians who are all looking forward to competing hard at the Games. I’m so fortunate to be able to lead this team, and I can’t wait to get stuck into it over in Paris.”

As for the women’s squad, the SVNS Series champions have named a settled group. Captain Charlotte Caslick will represent Australia at her third Games alongside veteran Sharni Smale who led the country to a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

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Teagen Levi, Bridget Clark, Kaitlin Shave, Isabella Nasser and Bienne Terita have are all set for their first Games. Teagan is the younger sister of try-scoring machine Maddison Levi who is also been selected by coach Tim Walsh.

“We have selected a team that knows how to win at big events. Preparations have been detailed, challenging and enjoyable,” Walsh said.

“We are a process-driven and performance-based team and the journey over the past three years is [the] reason we are ready to perform.

“The team is always first and we would like to thank Rugby Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee for making the Olympic dream a possibility.”

Australia men’s rugby sevens squad

  1. Henry Hutchison
  2. Ben Dowling
  3. Corey Toole
  4. Dietrich Roache
  5. Mark Nawaqanitawase
  6. Henry Paterson
  7. Hayden Sargeant
  8. James Turner
  9. Matt Gonzalez
  10. Nick Malouf (c)
  11. Maurice Longbottom
  12. Nathan Lawson

Travelling reserves: Michael Icely and Josh Turner

Australia women’s rugby sevens squad

  1. Bienne Terita
  2. Sharni Smale
  3. Faith Nathan
  4. Dominique Du Toit
  5. Teagan Levi
  6. Sariah Paki
  7. Charlotte Caslick (c)
  8. Kaitlin Shave
  9. Tia Hinds
  10. Isabella Nasser
  11. Maddison Levi
  12. Bridget Clark

Travelling reserves: Kahli Henwood and Sidney Taylor

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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