Oz chase Olympics spot at Oceania 7s

2015-11-11 13:04
Henry Speight (Gallo Images)

Wellington - Australia have drafted in Rugby World Cup wing Henry Speight for this weekend's Oceania Sevens Championship in Auckland as they bid to secure a place at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Rugby sevens makes its Games debut next year and the regional championship is the Olympic qualifier for the eight Asia-Pacific nations not already qualified.

Speight was part of the Wallabies squad which reached the World Cup final in England, although he was not selected to play in the title-decider at Twickenham.

Acting Australia sevens coach Tim Walsh said the wing had not spent any time with the squad and was familiarising himself with the shorter form of the game.

"Despite only arriving back from the Rugby World Cup last week, Henry was keen to travel which underlines the passion he has to be part of this squad," Walsh said.

Australia finished fifth in the 2014-15 World Rugby Sevens Series, just missing a top-four automatic qualification spot, and are favourites going into this weekend's event in Auckland, though they will first have to overcome Tonga and sevens heavyweights Samoa.

Walsh said the pressure was on the Australians to perform.

"With a spot at the Rio Olympics on the line in Auckland, we are under no illusion that now is the time to deliver," he said.

Australia are drawn with Tonga, Cook Islands and Nauru in Pool A.

Pool B consists of Samoa, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa and Solomon Islands.

One regional qualification spot is on offer to the winners of the tournament while the runners-up and third-placed team will have the chance to claim the final spot for Rio in a 16-nation global play-off tournament next June.

Last season's World Series champions Fiji and third-placed New Zealand will not take part in Auckland as they, along with fellow top-four teams South Africa (second) and England (fourth), have already qualified.

Also confirmed for the 2016 Games are hosts Brazil and the winners of the other regional competitions played so far -- Argentina, USA, France and Japan.

The African regional qualifier also takes place this weekend, in Johannesburg.

Read more on:    henry speight  |  rugby

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