Sevens to unearth superstars

Australian Sevens coach Michael O’Connor has no doubt he is on the verge of unearthing the next generation of Wallaby superstars.
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The national Sevens program and the Australian Institute of Sport joined forces this year to provide an elite pathway for rising players.

O’Connor represented Australia in rugby union and rugby league but the dual international doesn’t expect to stumble across the next Matt Giteau just yet.

However, he said the modified game was an easy way to identify Super 14 and national stars.

Giteau started his international career in Sevens and O’Connor said there was no danger of players being restricted to one form of the game.

"To me, Sevens is one of the best forums for talent ID around," O’Connor said. "If you’ve got any deficiencies in your game they’ll get exposed in a game of Sevens.

"From my experience if you can play Sevens you can play 15-a-side.

"All the non-negotiable things you need in the 15-man game are on display in the Sevens like tackling, the breakdown, the game sense and speed."

A 15-strong squad started a three-day training camp at the institute yesterday to prepare for the Wellington Sevens beginning next Friday.

Each Australian Super 14 club nominates two developing players to join the program.

The Brumbies have three Peter Betham, Afusipa Taumoepeau and Henry Vanderglas in the squad.

Betham and Taumoepeau are in the starting XV for the Brumbies trial against the Hurricanes tonight while Vanderglas was named on an extended bench.

Brumbies coach Andy Friend hoped the Sevens experience would fast-track the trio’s development.

"It’s a great concept and allows those guys to get away and learn some game pressure," Friend said.

"You play in front of big crowds and you’re playing for your country and I think it’s a tremendous opportunity.

"If they get selected [in the Australian team] we’ll welcome them back with an added skill-set."

The institute started its rugby union program in 1988 with Giteau, John Eales and George Gregan among its graduates.

Australia is a lowly ninth on the International Rugby Board Sevens rankings but O’Connor had his sights set on winning the world cup in Dubai in March.

"At our first tournament in November last year I think we had one guy with Sevens experience," O’Connor said.

"We’re always looking for improvement and we want to get back into the top four [in the world] as soon as possible."