Rugby Sevens ready to take the spotlight at GC2018
It’s time for rugby sevens to step out of the shadow of the 15s code, according to one of Australia’s most-capped players Ed Jenkins.
The former Australian men’s team captain believes winning gold at GC2018 would do the job.
“We’ve always played little brother to the 15s code,” Jenkins told GC2018.com.
“It’s the traditionalists out there that see Sevens as a Mickey Mouse tournament and they don’t take it as seriously.
“Now that it is an Olympic sport, it’s a Commonwealth Games sport and has been for over a decade now, people’s mind[set] needs to change a bit and give it the recognition that it deserves.”
Jenkins represented Australia in rugby sevens for a decade, captaining Australia for six seasons.
He was part of the silver medal-winning team in Delhi, won bronze in Glasgow and was hoping to be part of Australia’s campaign for gold at GC2018 before a shoulder injury forced him into retirement in January.
“The last two Commonwealth Games I’ve participated in, we’ve walked away with medals and it always brings the spotlight onto the sport a bit more.
“Having both men and women participating up here on the GC, the awareness will be high and if we can walk away with medals I think that will go a long way in changing people’s perception.”
Australia is yet to win gold at a Commonwealth Games but Jenkins believes the team has what it takes to finish on top of the podium at Robina Stadium, especially given their form.
In January the men’s team won their first world series title in six years, beating South Africa 29-0 in the final of the Sydney Sevens.
“I think just getting that belief amongst that group that they can beat any side on the circuit and they can go through a whole tournament being undefeated will go a long way in getting that group the belief that they can win big events like the Commonwealth Games,” Jenkins said.
“The belief is there now and they know they can actually do it, so to walk away with a gold at the Commonwealth Games shouldn’t be a surprise to any of those players.”
To make it through to the medal matches at the Games, Australia will need to finish on top of their pool in the preliminary rounds.
The format leaves no room for error and every match will be important in April.
“The fact that only one team from each pool will be going through to the semifinals does make it challenging and the fact that we’ve drawn England and Samoa in our pool alone makes it a tough competition,” Jenkins said.
“In the [world series] format you can slip up against one team or have one bad game in the pool stages and you can still find yourself in the quarters and semis, but that’s not the case here, so you’ve got to be up for every single match.
“There’s no reason why we can’t come out on top of that pool and go on and play that semi and be in the final match.”
Australia will be looking to make it two from two at GC2018, with the women’s event making its Commonwealth Games debut.
Australia took out the first women’s rugby sevens Olympic gold medal in Rio and also made history at the Sydney Sevens, winning the title without conceding a single point.
“The women have done such a good job of putting the sport in the spotlight,” Jenkins said.
“Especially with that win over in Rio so I think it’s a just reward that they’re participating here at the Commonwealth Games and hopefully they can replicate what they did over there in Rio.”
While he won’t be playing a part on the field in April, Jenkins plans to watch the action from the sidelines, with two sports in particular on his radar.
“It’s always been a highlight when I was at the previous Comm Games and even the Olympics to get around the other athletes and watching them perform,” he said.
“Some of the events that I’ve always gone and watched has been the weightlifting. As rugby players we do lift a lot of weights so I think it’s always impressive to see what those athletes can throw around.
“I’ll definitely be up here watching the men and women play [rugby sevens], hopefully we can come away with two gold medals. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
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