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'Massive boost': No Hoops but Aussie men's sevens get welcome surprise for Perth, women name formidable team

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17th January, 2024
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Michael Hooper’s exclusion has been confirmed but Australia’s men’s team have been boosted by the returns of Henry Hutchison and Darby Lancaster for next week’s Perth Sevens.

While Tim Walsh has named a formidable women’s squad as the 2016 gold medallists attempt to make it three in a row after victories in Dubai and Cape Town.

As reported last week, Hooper, the Wallabies’ most capped captain who is attempting to play a part in the Paris Olympics, will continue to increase his load before likely being rolled out for next month’s North America legs in Vancouver and Los Angeles.

 “It is unfortunate to not have ‘Hoops’ available for Perth, however, we are looking to Paris and playing the long game with him – he’s certainly working hard to be ready as quickly as possible,” men’s coach John Manenti said.

Nonetheless, a month after making the Cape Town Sevens final, Manenti has named his strongest squad.

Hutchison, who has featured at two Olympics, returns for the first time since his devastating knee-injury during last year’s Sydney Sevens, while flyer Lancaster, who is being looked at for the Paris Olympics following his stunning 2022-23 sevens campaign, has been permitted to play despite joining the Melbourne Rebels this season.

“It is such a massive boost for us to get ‘Hutch’ back. He means so much to us and he does so much for the group on and off the field,” Manenti said.

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“As we know, ACL injuries are tough to come back from, and Henry has worked incredibly hard to be able to make it to Perth – it will give us some additional inspiration.

“I want to thank the Melbourne Rebels for allowing us to bring back Darby Lancaster for Perth – he was with us all last season, so I expect it won’t take him too long to get up to speed with the guys; we saw what a great Sevens player he is all last season, so it’s a boost for us to get him back.”

Melbourne Rebels recruit Darby Lancaster is back in Australia’s sevens team after making a strong impression last season. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The men’s side boasts plenty of experience, with captain Nick Malouf joined by Maurice Longbotom, Dietrich Roache and Nathan Lawson.

Matt Gonzalez also returns from a rib injury to give Manenti another ball playing option alongside Longbottom, who was brilliant in Cape Town after being eased back from injury in Dubai.

Australia will feel confident of making a run deep into the three-day tournament, with Manenti’s men grouped alongside Ireland, Great Britain and the USA in Pool B.

Meanwhile, Walsh has named just one new face in his women’s squad, with Heidi Levi coming in for the injured Demi Hayes.

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Hayes suffered a knee-injury in Cape Town and is in a race against the clock to be fit for Paris.

Nonetheless, Walsh has named a formidable squad that has experience, ball playing ability, physicality and speed.

Flyer Maddison Levi has been named despite copping a suspension, which will see her miss the pool stage of the Perth Sevens.

Tim Walsh (c) has selected Teagan Levi (L) and Maddison Levi in his squad for the Perth Sevens. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

But such is her athletic prowess that Walsh hasn’t hesitated naming her, knowing she will be primed for the finals.

The side has plenty of cover, with Faith Nathan, Kaitlin Shave and Bienne Terita offering plenty of speed too.

“Everyone in the squad is pumped about the opportunity to perform in front of our home crowd in Perth – though we are well aware of the need to be disciplined and focus on our performance,” Walsh said.

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“We are not an outcome-focused team – we continue to adhere to our philosophy of ‘process and performance’. Our desire is to execute our individual roles and put on a show for Perth and Australia.

“We have selected a strong and experienced team which includes a debutant in Heidi Dennis, who replaces the talented Demi Hayes. Heidi performed incredibly well during preseason tournaments against the world’s best teams in New Zealand and Fiji.

“After a memorable debut in Dubai, Kaitlin Shave went onto score the winning try in the Cape Town Final to make it two from two for the Australian Women’s team. Kaitlin has retained her spot in the team and combines with our other speedsters Bienne [Terita], Faith [Nathan] and Maddi Levi.”

Australia’s women are grouped alongside Canada, Great Britain and South Africa.

Australia Women’s Sevens team for Perth SVNS:

2. Sharni Smale

3. Faith Nathan

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4. Dominique Du Toit

5. Teagan Levi

6. Madison Ashby

7. Charlotte Caslick (c)

8. Kaitlin Shave

10. Bella Nasser

12. Maddison Levi

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13. Heidi Dennis*

22. Bienne Terita

55. Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea

65. Sariah Paki

Australia Men’s Sevens team:

1. Henry Hutchison

2. Ben Dowling

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3. Henry Palmer

4. Dietrich Roache

5. Tim Clements

7. Josh Turner

9. Matt Gonzalez

10. Nick Malouf (c)

11. Maurice Longbottom

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12. Nathan Lawson

14. James Turner

23. Darby Lancaster

25. Hayden Sargeant

*Denotes potential debut.

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