Australia Men's Sevens coach John Manenti has confirmed his squad for the 2023-24 SVNS season.
Manenti has been able to build a team full of returning Sevens players with experience, a luxury he hasn’t had in the past.
“I am thrilled with the group we have,” said head coach Manenti. “We are starting to build some real consistency with the core of the group, while adding quality through some new faces.
Nine players are remaining from the team that claimed the Hong Kong title in November last year, with Henry Hutchison set to return after suffering a long-term injury at the start of the year.
Hutchison will push to be right for the opening back-to-back events in Dubai (December 2-3) and Cape Town (December 9-10), aiming for the latter.
“I am over the moon to be able to welcome back Henry Hutchison into the playing squad," Manenti admits.
"An ACL injury always tests a player’s resolve to come back, and ‘Hutch’ has worked his tail off to get back."
He will likely serve as vice captain alongside Maurice Longbottom to Nick Malouf, who missed five events in 2023 with a foot injury.
They are joined by an established core of Henry Paterson, Matt Gonzalez, Tim Clements, Dietrich Roache, Josh and James Turner along with Nathan Lawson.
Wallabies legend Michael Hooper is the big recruit, set to join the squad in early January.
Hooper will have six events to push his Olympic case, set to be held in Paris at the end of July.
Young gun Hadley Tonga is at the opposite end of his playing career but is an as exciting signing for the program.
The Australia U18s representative is returning from injury and is considered one of the fastest players in the game.
“Hadley is one of the most exciting young players in Rugby – he is super-fast and extremely elusive. He’s only young, but I think he can make a real impact this year," Manenti notes.
“It’s great to have Ben [Dowling] back too. He showed plenty of quality when he was with us a couple of years ago, and it looks like his time with the Waratahs has only helped make him a more complete player."
Tonga along with returning Waratah Dowling will look to fill the void left by Darby Lancaster, with the Junior Wallaby joining the Melbourne Rebels for 2024.
Last year's rookies Dally Bird and Hayden Sargeant have earned full-time deals for 2023-24, with Ken Catchpole Medalist Michael Icely also joining the squad after strong stints in the past.
Manenti has also confirmed a development squad filled with talent that impressed during the Oceania Sevens and their pre-season expedition to South Africa.
This includes Ben Dalton, Aden Ekanayake, Conor Hickey, James McGregor and Henry Palmer.
AUSTRALIA MEN’S SEVENS SQUAD – 2023/24 SEASON Ben Dowling
Nick Malouf (c)