The Sevens sides are looking at the Oceania Championships as a crucial step towards their push towards higher honors later in the year.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will return to action on June 24-26 as part of a three-day tournamen, joining New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.
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It serves as one of the final events before July’s Commonwealth Games, with an elusive gold the main goal for either side.
The men’s side are coming into the tournament in red-hot form, having defeated Samoa and New Zealand on their way to the title in London.
With the challenge of a title-deciding final leg in LA crammed between the Commonwealth Games and Rugby Sevens World Cup, Sevens stalwart Henry Hutchison believes it provides the perfect platform for the freshened up squad to establish their positions ahead of a crucial period.
“It’s like scoreboard pressure. These tough Oceania trips where it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things to the World Series and Commonwealth Games, it’s hard to get up for but they’re super important,” he told rugby.com.au
“New Zealand and Fiji will always send their best team and we need to get used to beating these teams. I feel like we have the wood over them at the moment but we have to keep it there.
“You learn a lot as well going up against the two best teams in the world so exposure to such good players and different pictures in the game, you grow as players and a team.
“We know our structure and what works, we don’t want to go too far from that but we’ll definitely be trialling different combinations and players who haven’t had too many minutes on the World Series.
“They’ll get that further time to produce themselves to the coaches and the team. We’ll throw one or two more things at the Fijians, Kiwis, Tongans but we wont let all the tricks out of the bag so early.”
Meanwhile, Tim Walsh’s side are using the tournament to try different combinations and manage their load after a ‘brutal’ calendar, with Sevens legend Alicia Lucas (neé Quirk) making her return in the non-capped event.
“We’re obviously peaking for Comm Games and it’s such a big season and brutal calendar,” he said.
“Oceania will be a little different for us than New Zealand because they haven’t played a lot so they’ll be using that a real benchmark whilst we’ll be using it a little different.
“We’re still aiming to peak perform and get what we need to out of Oceania. When you cross the line, you always want to win but it just depends on what kind of pressure and mental, physical fatigue you have your players under at the time.
Regardless of the stakes, New Zealand always remains firmly on the mind of the World Series champions, having gone down in Toulouse following their Langford heroics.
They will get the unique chance of facing two Kiwi opposition, with the players well aware of what further wins will do for their confidence.
“The win against New Zealand was my first six years into the program so I celebrate every win we get as a group because it’s so important to move forward and keep working forward,” captain Demi Hayes believes.
“As Demi said, not many of us had beat New Zealand before and they were still ranked number one so for us, even though we were winning other tournaments, it was a game that was bound to happen,” Madison Ashby interjected.
“When we performed well and just played for one another that day and got the win, it was probably the best feeling any of us have had in a long time.
“It just gave us that confidence the hard work and everything we’ve put into our team paid off.”
*All times AEST
Friday June 24
Australia Selection Men v Fiji – 9:24 a.m.
Australia Selection Women v Black Ferns Pango – 9:48 am
Australia Selection Men v New Zealand – 3:24 p.m.
Australia Selection Women v Fijiana – 4:12 p.m.
Saturday June 25
Australia Selection Men v Tonga – 9:00 a.m.
Australia Selection Women v Black Ferns Ma – 10:12 am
Australia Selection Men v Fiji – 3:24 p.m.
Australia Selection Women v Black Ferns Pango – 3:48 p.m.
Sunday June 26
Australia Selection Men v New Zealand – 9:24 a.m.
Australia Selection Women v Fijiana – 10:12 a.m.
Australia Selection Men v Tonga – 3:00 p.m.
Australia Selection Women v Black Ferns Ma – 4:57 p.m.