Hutchison welcomes growing competition as Sevens turn focus to Dubai

Tue, Nov 15, 2022, 11:18 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Aussie 7s are London 7s champions after taking out an epic final in London.

Sevens vice-captain Henry Hutchison believes there's never been a more competitive HSBC World Series circuit as they prepare to back up their Hong Kong heroics in Dubai.

The Aussies' started their title defence in perfect fashion, claiming the historic opener after a last-minute winner against Fiji.

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It leaves John Manenti's side heading into back-to-back legs in Dubai and Cape Town in an unfamiliar position as the 'hunted.'

Whilst their brand and culture has been built off the 'misfits' tag, it's a target Hutchison welcomes as the team embraces the pressure.

“There’s definitely a target on our back, a lot of teams will be coming for us after Hong Kong but we relish and welcome that,” he said to Rugby.com.au.

“We’re going to have to be disciplined to keep it up because Sevens is such a difficult game, a different team turns up every event so you can’t be switched off for any game.

“We need to just keep consistent, back ourselves and love each other because there’s a lot of love in this team and that’s probably what’s getting us over the line.

“I think we always laugh to Johnny at training  ‘don’t put our backs to the wall, we’ll perform, don’t do it.’ We love that pressure and when the chips are down.

“It brings the best out of us and that was evident over the weekend and it makes for a good story.”

Australia have been drawn in Pool A for Dubai on December 2-3, slated to face powerhouses South Africa, Great Britain and Kenya.

In most other seasons, those combinations of teams would be considered the 'Pool of Death', however, the nature of the Series is essentially every pool carries that moniker.

Following their early exit last round, New Zealand slots into Pool B alongside World Cup winners Fiji and Vancouver champions Argentina, ensuring one of those three won't qualify for the knock-out stages.

This stresses the importance of consistency, the key trait that guided them to last year's title, with no game an easy one as they hunt for back-to-back event victories for the first time since 2001.

“It’s amazing,” Hutchison said. “I think there’s ten teams that can win it at any tournament. If you don’t make the quarter-finals and you end up playing New Zealand in the ninth-place final, it seems pretty ridiculous 

“One of us, NZ or Samoa weren’t making the top eight and that’s going to happen in Dubai. 

“The teams are stacked and it’s a great product for World Rugby, look at Uruguay, it was their first tournament and they were knocking off teams like Great Britain, they got three wins and were fantastic. It’s those minnow teams that are pushing the bigger nations to stay on their game and it’s making for a really competitive sport.

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t remember a team when you had so many teams that could win,” coach John Manenti added.

“It’s hard and tough, every tournament is going to be hard-fought and no gimmes. There’s no time in-between as well, it’s less than two weeks before we head to Dubai and Cape Town and then we get a couple weeks before Sydney and Hamilton.

“You just have to be in the fight every time.”

Manenti remains hopeful Matt Gonzalez will be fit for the final two legs of 2022, missing Hong Kong due to a hamstring injury, with James Turner (ankle), Nathan Lawson (shoulder) and Darby Lancaster (face/shin) managing knocks.

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