O'Connor raises sevens spirits - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Connor raises sevens spirits

By Jim Morton 20/09/2010 01:47:01 PM Comments (0)

There are no Giteaus, Tuqiris or Lathams this time around but Australia's rising rugby sevens tyros are geared up for their strongest assault on a maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal in Delhi.

Former dual international Michael O'Connor, without the luxury of choosing big-name Wallabies for the 2010 Games like Glen Ella did four years ago in Melbourne, has developed his unheralded team of gut-busting triers into the giant-killers of world sevens.

Australia will start as third favourites behind defending champions New Zealand and world No.1-ranked Samoa following their vast improvement on the world circuit.

Instead of recruiting stars like Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri and Chris Latham, coach O'Connor complemented his young squad with four Super 14 wingers - Waratah Lachie Turner, Brumby Pat McCabe, Reds flyer Luke Morahan and the Force's Nick Cummins.

How the quartet jell will be crucial to Australia's hopes following the costly losses of game-breaking centre Brackin Karuira-Henry due to eligibility dramas, and injuries to Henry Vanderglas, Ed Quirk, Jake Taylor and Clint Sills.

Nicknamed the Spirit in the IRB's world sevens series, Australia were the major surprise-packets in 2009-10 when third overall - their best ever result.

The highlight was a breakthrough title in the penultimate round in London - Australia's first tournament win in eight years.

Although he's missing a chunk of that team, O'Connor is confident with his side enhanced by his Super 14 recruits and the return of captain Pat McCutcheon from Waratahs duty.

"The backbone of the squad is still there and Pat is an important member of the team," he said. "I think they'll be just as dangerous."

Making O'Connor's job a little easier is the fact Fiji, the seven-man game's traditional leaders, are not competing due to their political issues.

Australia have been drawn alongside England, Uganda and Sri Lanka in pool D and will aim to win all three pool matches on day one of the two-day tournament for a better finals draw.

New Zealand have won all three gold medals since sevens debuted at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998 when Wallabies great David Campese captained Australia to bronze.

Australia failed to make it past the quarter-finals at Manchester in 2002 while the star-studded 2006 side lost to Fiji in their bronze-medal play-off in Melbourne.

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