A week after France pulled out of hosting the Rugby League World Cup because of financial fears, rugby got another shot in the arm when Australia’s men’s sevens team joined qualified for next year’s Olympics in Paris.
“Rugby, rests its case,” quipped Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan, pointing to France’s decision to abandon hosting the league World Cup in 2025.
Beyond the fun and games stirred up by RA’s front-foot approach under McLennan, Australia’s automatic qualification for next year’s Olympics was a boost for the game.
If RA is going to preach that its biggest strength is its global nature, Australia needs not just to show up on the biggest stage but turn up too.
By joining the women’s side in earning automatic qualification, it’s now full steam ahead for Australia’s brains trust.
While new RA president Joe Roff earlier this month backed the governing body’s active pursuit for NRL players to put their hands up to make the switch, including Joseph Suaalii to come across early, Michael Hooper will likely be their No.1 target.
The Wallabies’ most-capped captain remains interested in playing at next year’s Olympics, with the Waratahs recognising the long-time No.7 is set to depart.
He would give the Australian sevens team some leadership, composure, another on-ball threat and one of the best one-on-one tackles in the game, not to mention his engine.
Force back-rower Tim Anstee could also come back into the reckoning, with John Manenti’s side interested on another lineout jumper, who provides punch around the field.
Brumbies flyer Corey Toole remains a no-brainer, with the winger putting together a stunning highlights reel after transitioning back to the 15-person game.
But Waratahs flyer Max Jorgensen could be another option, particularly with Tom Wright and Andrew Kellaway at the peak of their powers.
While the Waratahs would likely want to keep him for the majority of the season, Jorgensen, should he miss World Cup selection, could get some exposure either side of the Super Rugby season, play at the Olympics and then link back with the Wallabies for their end of season spring tour.
With Darby Lancaster proving to be Manenti’s breakthrough player of the season, Nick Malouf returning to form and fitness, Maurice Longbottom a continued threat and Henry Patterson making World Rugby’s dream team, the additions of a few Super Rugby players would instantly help them become medal contenders.
They’ll need them too because French captain – and one of the world’s best players – Antoine Dupont is also considering putting his hand up for selection.
Meanwhile, Tim Walsh’s women’s side are certainly medal contenders, but they’ll have to address their composure and game-plan if they are to repeat their feat of 2016 by winning gold in Paris.
Walsh’s side have the talent, but too often they found it difficult to get out of their own half when under pressure from a bigger, more physical side.
Their bronze medal in Toulouse showed that, as their usually swift ball movement came unstuck when their opponents France in the pool stage and, later in the semi-final, the USA got in their faces.
Nonetheless, Maddison Levi showed she’s the most lethal finisher in the game out wide while her younger sister, Teagen, showed her playmaking ability on the fringes to compliment Charlotte Caslick.