The Rugby World Cup Sevens kicks off in San Francisco this weekend (live on FOX Sports), with the Australian Men’s and Women’s teams both heading to the US considered genuine chances to win the competition.
It’s only the third instalment in the competition’s history for the Women’s team, with the Aussies winning the 2009 edition and winning the Plate Final in 2013, while for the Men’s team they’ll be looking to go all the way for the first time, after finishing as runners up in both 1993 and 2001.
The tournament is a knockout format, with the Women’s side beginning their campaign with a clash against Papua New Guinea (4:28am Saturday) and the Men’s team in action (Saturday 12:47pm) for the first time against the winner of the game between France and Jamaica.
Brumbies star Tom Cusack represented the Australian Men’s side in 2013 in Moscow, where they were eliminated at the Quarter Final stage by England, before transitioning to fifteen-a-side Rugby after the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (2016).
While some people don’t know where the competition sits within the Rugby Sevens echelon, Cusack told RUPA that he cherished his RWC7s memories.
“It compares to any other World Cup in that it is the pinnacle of the sport, but then in Rugby Sevens you have the other major tournaments in the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games as well which could be perceived as being of higher standing,” Cusack explained.
“The World Cup doesn’t have the same level of notoriety around it, but I think that as the sport keeps building it is growing in stature and getting a bigger name for itself.
“In 2013, it was the start of my career and it was the first time I was selected for a major tournament in Moscow. I got to play with some big-name players in Bernard Foley, Sean McMahon and Luke Morahan, we had a quality team over there, so to be put into a team with those kinds of players around gave me a lot of confidence. Mum and Dad flew over for it, I don’t know whether it was because of their son making the World Cup or because they wanted to have the Russian experience, but they absolutely loved going to the Red Square and the Kremlin!”
2016 Rio Gold Medalist Gemma Noller OAM (nee Etheridge) missed the 2013 World Cup with a knee injury, but her sister represented Australia, and she is excited to see the tournament again head to a non-traditional Rugby nation in the US.
“It was disappointing, which it always is when you miss out on going on tour with the team and you see them all playing, but it was great to watch Nikki play and it was a massive thing for her to represent her country at a World Cup and unfortunately it was something I never got to do but was memorable for her and the family.
“It is going to be amazing to see Sevens being played on a baseball field, and the US has grown so much with their Rugby so it is really good to see that they have embraced the World Cup and put so much effort into the marketing side of things. It’s about showcasing it to the world and I think they will do a fabulous job.”
Cusack believes the Men’s squad are in a strong position heading into the tournament, more than capable of having a major impact on the competition.
“The boys are in good stead,” he said. “They have great experience in Lewy (Holland) and Jesse (Parahi), who played back in the 2013 World Cup, as well as guys like Sammy Myers, Tom Lucas and John Porch who’ve played in both the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games; these are all guys who perform in high-level games. The blend of experience and exciting youth coming through the group, and the combination of (Head Coach) Timmy Walsh and Lewy leading the squad, I think that they will be able to do really well. I’m excited about what they can do and what they possess as a squad.
“I’ve got people to follow in both camps; (Women’s Assistant Coach) I’ll be cheering for ‘Chucky Stannard’ and (Head Coach) Johnny Manenti, and so many of the women’s players who I spent a few years training alongside, so I’m looking forward to watching both competitions all weekend.”
Gemma is also likely to be glued to the screen all weekend, with her nine-month old Charlie likely to provide plenty of help to get her up for the early morning start on Saturday, and she’s looking forward to seeing her former teammates in action.
“I think that they will go really well, they’ve obviously had the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games and I know they are really spurred on by defeat; they don’t like losing!
“There have been a few changes since I left after Rio, and the young girls coming through have been really impressive. Seeing them get some good game time and really learn their craft, you can see they are transferring their skills from the training paddock into the games, and I don’t think the pressure of the World Cup will phase them at all.
“Then you’ve got somebody like Vani (Pelite) who has just progressed in leaps and bounds in the past couple of years to be such a pivotal player there, and she’s one who will really stand out at the World Cup!”
To follow all of the action this weekend, make sure you keep an eye on the @Aussie7s Twitter account!
2018 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Lachlan Anderson, Tim Anstee, Lewis Holland, Henry Hutchison, Boyd Killingworth, Maurice Longbottom, Tom Lucas, Liam McNamara, Sam Myers, Ben O’Donnell, Jesse Parahi, John Porch, Brandon Quinn
2018 Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Lauren Brown, Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry, Ellia Green, Demi Hayes, Page McGregor, Yasmin Meakes, Shannon Parry, Evania Pelite, Alicia Quirk, Cassie Staples, Emma Tonegato, Sharni Williams
1993 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Matthew Burke, David Campese, Ryan Constable, Jin Fenwicke, John Flett, Ronnie Kirkpatrick, Grant Lodge, Michael Lynagh, Willie Ofahengaue, Ilie Tabua, Semi Taupeaafe
1997 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Michael Brial, David Campese, Ryan Constable, David Kelaher, Stephen Larkham, John Moss, Matthew Mostyn, Damian Smith, Semi Taupeaafe, Roy Wayne Williams
2001 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Scott Barton, Ed Carter, Tim Donnelly, Richard Graham, Julian Huxley, Matt Isaac, Robert McDonald, Sam Payne, Cameron Pither, Brendan Williams
2005 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Andrew Brown, Tim Clark, Josh Gamgee, Matt Hodgson, Luke Inman, Shawn Mackay, Keiran Massey, Kacey Mitchell, James Morgan, Nick Reily, Anthony Sauer, James Su'a
2009 Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Nicole Beck, Tricia Brown, Bo De la Cruz, Alexandra Hargreaves, Debby Hogkinson Shelley Matcham, Tobie McGann, Tui Ormsby, Cheryl Soon, Ruan Sims, Rebecca Tavo, Selena Tranter
2009 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: William Bishop, William Brock, Ben Coridas, Shaun Foley, Luke Morahan, Damon Murphy, Ed Jenkins, Jono Jenkins, Richard Kingi, Sonatane Sefanaia, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Henry Vanderglas
2013 Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Katrina Barker, Iliseva Batibasaga, Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry, Nikki Etheridge, Shannon Parry, Tiana Penitani, Saofaiga Saemo, Shontelle Stowers, Rebecca Tavo, Amy Turner, Sharni Williams
2013 Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Squad: Cameron Clark, Tom Cusack, Bernard Foley, Con Foley, Lewis Holland, Ed Jenkins, Matt Lucas, Sean McMahon, Luke Morahan, Jesse Parahi, James Stannard, Shannon Walker