Young Aussies to bring out the best, says Ella

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 March, 2006, 12:00am

In all the normal hullabaloo in the build-up to this year's Sevens, the one side whose fans are usually the most brash and boisterous arrived in town almost unnoticed.

Yes, Australia landed at Chek Lap Kok yesterday with as about as much fanfare as the Sri Lanka squad.

Currently languishing in eighth place, 56 points behind World Sevens Series (WSS) leaders Fiji, to say the Aussies have underperformed this year is an understatement.

Unbelievably, in all four WSS events played this season they have made it only to the Plate semi-finals of each one. They did make the Cup semi-finals in the Commonwealth Games, but that was only thanks to them filling their squad with Super 14 players.

But this time they will tog out in Hong Kong without the services of Wallaby stars Lote Tuqiri, Matt Giteau and Chris Latham.

The days when the likes of David Campese and Michael Lynagh ruled at the Sevens are a distant memory now, and coach Glen Ella knows all too well the task his side faces.

'There's no doubt we have a lot of ground to make up on the other teams. We've a young squad but there'll be no excuses from us if we don't produce the goods,'' he said.

'It's time we started performing well on the big stage, and you can get no bigger stage in sevens rugby than in Hong Kong.'

Ella has named two debutants, Tim Harrington and Rod Petty, and recalled six familiar faces - Viliame Ratu, Matthew Bell, Michael Black, Luke Milton, Mark Gilbride and Ant Sauer. Commonwealth Games players Shawn Mackay, Josh Gamgee, Damon Murphy and Nick Reily complete the squad. Luke Inman was unavailable due to his medical studies.

'We are looking to make the most of our Commonwealth Games experience and use what we did there to improve in the next two rounds,' Ella said.

'I think there is a good competition in this squad, and Hong Kong will hopefully bring out the best out in us.

'Getting to our first Cup semi-finals of the season is a goal we have set ourselves and while we don't have our Wallaby stars here, the Commonwealth Games has definitely given us a new level of confidence and self-belief.'

Australia squad: Shawn Mackay (captain), Matthew Bell, Michael Black, Josh Gamgee, Mark Gilbride, Tim Harrington, Luke Milton, Damon Murphy, Rod Petty, Viliame Ratu, Nick Reily, Ant Sauer.