Australia will head into the HSBC World Sevens Series round in Hamilton on January 26 looking to advance their ability to handle end-of-game pressure.
Coach Tim Walsh told rugby.com.au that improving players’ instincts under pressure was crucial to Australia lifting its ranking in Sevens. Australia sit in sixth place after two rounds of the 2018-19 series.
“In the last five years we’re at about 30 percent winning rate, so we need to get that above 50 and it’s going to be a whole different thing,” he said.
At Dubai in the first round, Australia won their pool game over England in the last play to make the quarterfinals.
In the second round, in Cape Town, they lost to England in the quest to claim fifth place.
Winning those key moments at the end of games could make all the difference and that would be Walsh’s goal for the side.
“It’s a very unique game in Sevens that you play six games on the weekend and if you’re a good team – which we are, we’re not a great team, we’re a good team – three to four out of those six will come down to the last play.
“And that’s that ability to maintain your composure, maintain your skill level, maintain the knowledge of your role and just playing your game,” he said.
Walsh had gone back to basics with his squad.
— HSBC NZ Sevens (@NZ_Sevens) January 12, 2019
“I asked the players, ‘What is your default under pressure?’ and not a lot of them really knew. So, it was about thinking through, ‘under pressure, what do I revert to, or what do I do that I can unravel and change?’ It was basically going through stuff or working out what that is and then we can change that,” he said.
“The psychology side of it is putting yourself into a position where everything else is just noise and you’re just playing this game.
“We have our systems, we know what we’re doing and we just play.”
That was different to defaulting to something outrageous that wouldn’t be attempted in the first minute of the game and then trying to do it in the last minute of the game when the result ended up going the other way.
Walsh utilised former Australian internationals Rob Horne and Stephen Hoiles and others to work with the side in dealing with pressure in different ways.
“It’s such a huge factor but we’re getting really good process that hopefully we’ll see the real results of it very soon,” he said.
For the Hamilton tournament Tim Anstee has been ruled out due to an ankle injury while there is doubt Boyd Killingworth will make it. However, Simon Kennewell is set to play his first tournament in 12 months after recovering from a ruptured ACL ahead of last year’s Sydney Sevens.
🎙️ “What more could you want.” The #BlackFerns7s are set to light up the NZ Sevens in Hamilton when they play on home soil for the very first time later this month! Make sure you’re there to witness history! 💥 🏉 pic.twitter.com/FnOqTZ87eP
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) January 8, 2019