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
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
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.