RUGBY UNION: Australia coach Chris Lane is looking towards an Olympic future as he takes a young, developing squad to the first tournament of the inaugural women’s world sevens series.
Lane has selected four uncapped players for the Dubai tournament, starting Friday night (AEDT), and only retained four survivors from the last time Australia played in the Middle East.
With rugby sevens making its Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games, Lane is in the process of increasing the depth in his squad and also improving the skill level and fitness in the IRB’s new four-leg series.
Rebecca Tavo will captain the Australian side which has been drawn into pool C with France, United States and the Netherlands.
Youngsters Alex Sulusi and Maddie Elliot, plus Jess Palmer and Nikki Etheridge will all earn their first international caps at the Dubai tournament.
The women’s sevens world series marks a giant leap forward for the sport and highlights its growth since its inclusion in the Olympics.
“Since rugby was announced as an Olympic sport a few years ago we’ve seen a lot of countries put a lot more effort into their women’s programmes,” Lane said.
“This effort will be evident at the tournament in Dubai where I have no doubt we’ll see the standard and the intensity taken to a whole new level.”
Meanwhile, the Australian men’s team has been decimated by injury with just four players remaining from the squad which was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Gold Coast tournament last month.
Captain Ed Jenkins, Jesse Parahi, Allan Fa’alava’au, Shannon Walker, Jacob Taylor and Lewis Holland are among the latest to be sidelined.
“It’s unprecedented to have 12 of your 22-man squad unavailable due to injury,” said coach Michael O’Connor.
“It is a bit of a blow but we’ve gone well when faced with adversity in the past.”
O’Connor’s side have drawn France, Canada and United States in their pool at the joint tournament.