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Olympic dream or pipe dream? Hoops running out of time after latest sevens omission, but Dupont ready for debut

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19th February, 2024
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The next round of the SVNS series will be played in Vancouver this weekend and there’s some worrying news from the men’s side with former Wallaby captain Michael Hooper still unable to launch his bid to play at the Olympics.

When the travelling men’s and women’s squads were announced on Saturday, there was no mention of  Hoops.

This is not a good sign. He is rapidly running out of time to make the Olympics. Maurice Longbottom is also a concern – he’s out with a dreaded calf injury.

Michael Hooper. (Photo by Nicholas Ward/ Rugby Australia)

In better news, Henry Paterson is back on deck, returning from injury. (Obviously we cannot expect too much as he works himself to match fitness).

Also, due to Rebels commitments, Darby Lancaster is not in the squad. Otherwise, it is a very stable team with 10 players having been in all four tournaments so far this season.

After a rocky start to the SVNS Series in Dubai the men bounced back making the finals in Cape Town and Perth. In Vancouver the men need to keep doing what they have been doing, fight throughout every play and minute of every match.


Vancouver will be another tough tournament. In their Pool they are up against USA, Samoa and France. The Aussie men will get a firsthand view of Antoine Dupont who debuts for France. Will he bring his magic to rugby sevens? You can check him out against Australia on Sunday morning.

The men begin their tournament against Samoa (Saturday February 24, 9:58 am AEDT) then the USA (3:02 pm AEDT) and France (Sunday, February 25, 8:49 am AEDT).

The Aussie women have had a lot going on. It is probably the most since Tim Walsh returned to the women’s program. The squad has faced a few challenges of late, more than their fair share of red cards and a couple of serious injuries to Demi Hayes and Bienne Terita. There has also been the inclusion of a couple of new players to the team.

Despite this they have continued their success winning two titles and being runner up in Perth. A key has been generally having the same players playing together for the last couple of years. There have been very few new players until this season.

The Vancouver tournament for the Aussie women will be very interesting viewing. In the first two matches they will be without two strike weapons – Terita, out of the tournament with injury, and Maddi Levi suspended for the first two games. (Fortunately for Levi her second red card suspension was only for four matches.)

Terita had really stepped up and slipped in seamlessly in recent times when red cards had taken out Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, Maddi and Teagan Levi out of the starting lineups. Her power and speed will be missed. Not sure how long she will be out for with a syndesmoses injury that required surgery.


Overall, the Aussie women have had a great run with few long term injuries, (touch wood.) New players Kaitlan Shave and Heidi Dennis are fitting in well. Shave has some real speed which will be needed without Terita and Maddi Levi. Bella Nasser who debuted last season in Cape Town adds some power and physicality in the middle.

Bienne Terita of Australia celebrates a try during the 2024 Perth SVNS women's match between Australia and RSA at HBF Park on January 26, 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Despite the women’s recent success, they will have a couple of tough Pool games. Fiji are always a challenge with their physicality and while the women have had recent success over the USA, the USA did defeat them twice last season. Against both teams the three keys are keeping possession, possession, possession.

The women’s tournament starts against Japan (February 24 6:52 am AEDT) followed by Fiji (11:46 am AEDT) and then USA (Sunday February 25, 5:37 am AEDT).

A couple of asides. It will be interesting to see Sophie de Goede return to the Canadian side. She is captain of the Canadian 15s team, plays for Saracens in England and is without doubt one of the real stars of women’s rugby. Like Dupont she seems to be aiming for the Olympics.

On the signing front, it was good to see Maddy Ashby re-sign with Rugby AU for another two years. She is a play maker in a similar mold to Charlotte Caslick and a real terrier over the ball. She has no fear of putting her head into those dark places to get a turnover. So great to have her stick with rugby.

Australian women’s squad
2. Sharni Smale
3. Faith Nathan
4. Dominique Du Toit
5. Teagan Levi
6. Madison Ashby
7. Charlotte Caslick (c)
8. Kaitlin Shave
9. Tia Hinds
10. Bella Nasser
12. Maddison Levi
13. Heidi Dennis
55. Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea
65. Sariah Paki


Australian men’s squad
1.Henry Hutchison
2. Ben Dowling
3. Henry Palmer
4. Dietrich Roache
5. Tim Clements
6. Henry Paterson
7. Josh Turner
9. Matt Gonzalez
10. Nick Malouf (c)
11. Maurice Longbottom
12. Nathan Lawson
14. James Turner
25. Hayden Sargeant
87. Michael Icely