irb.com and James Mortimer 08.Oct.2013Getty Images
Qantas Men’s Sevens coach Michael O’Connor has named two debutants in the squad but says he is confident his 12-man selection has the right balance to succeed over the weekend.
“The side is the most experienced team I have taken into the opening tournament of the year.
“Our two debutants Alex Gibbon and Tom Lucas are both coming off impressive performances in Suva, Fiji last weekend at the 2013 Oceania Sevens Championship. I am confident they can step up and play at IRB level.”
The inclusion of local star and Series speedster Shannon Walker is certainly a draw card for fans over the weekend.
“Shannon is a fast mover and an exciting player to watch with his deft footwork” O’Connor said.
Qantas Men’s Sevens captain Ed Jenkins is leading the side for a consecutive third year, and said the side was looking forward to the tournament on home soil.
“It’s great to have the support of the crowd. It always provides such a good atmosphere to play in.
“The draw will provide some tough matches, especially with Samoa coming off a win last week in Fiji at the Oceania Sevens.
“We have a well-balanced squad, with some fresh faces, and we have been working hard in the off-season to make sure we can come out in fighting form,” said Jenkins.
Meanwhile Adam Field is the only uncapped player in a strong and experienced Wales Sevens squad selected by coach Paul John.
From the squad which reached the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June, Cardiff's Gareth Davies and Llandovery's Adam Warren drop out while Iolo Evans (Carmarthen Quins), Sam Cross (UWIC) and Wil Thomas (Cardiff) come into the squad, which is again captained by Pontypridd's Adam Thomas.
John says his squad go into this week's opening tournament in high spirits after beating South Africa twice at the recent Middleburg Sevens.
"Selection has been very hard and very competitive – a lot of boys have just missed out, which keeps pressure on the group which has gone, and it's great that we now have competition right across the squad,” he said.
"The 12 boys in Australia are the guys who have put their hand up for the first tournament and the boys who have missed out will get another opportunity to impress before the next set of tournaments in Dubai and South Africa next month.
"Adam is the only new player and he has earned his spot. He took part in the GB Sevens series in the summer with our development group where he impressed playing centre and wing. He then came into our core group and he figured in Middleburg where he played two games against South Africa and once again did well – so he deserves his place in the squad.”
John is hoping his team have learned some harsh lessons from last season's tournament in Australia where a defeat in pool play to Argentina was enough to miss out on a quarter-final after wins against Portugal and France.
"We won two games in the group but missed out on points difference – that was difficult as it happened three times in the season. It rams home the point that every game is massively important and every point is massively important and hopefully we have learned from that.
"This weekend we play Portugal, Canada and Fiji. That is a very competitive group and teams are only getting better so our main focus this week is to get out of group.”
The Gold Coast Sevens is the first of nine tournaments in the Series, and sees 16 international teams play 45 matches across two days.
Australia Sevens squad: Paul Asquith, Cameron Clark, Con Foley, Alex Gibbon, Ed Jenkins, Lalofi Junior Laloifi, Tom Lucas, Nick Malouf, Sean McMahon, Jesse Parahi, James Stannard, Shannon Walker
Wales Sevens squad: Adam Thomas - Capt (Pontypridd), Rhys Shellard (Pontypridd), Alex Webber (Pontypridd), James Davies (Scarlets & Carmarthen Quins), Lee Williams (Carmarthen Quins), Iolo Evans (Carmarthen Quins), Sam Cross (UWIC), Alex Walker (Cardiff), Will Thomas (Blues Academy & Cardiff), Rhys Jones (Cross Keys), Adam Field (Bridgend), Chris Knight( Scarlets & Llandovery)