Sevens captain in favour of Jones' raid on NRL players
NEWS: Wallaby coach Eddie Jones has an ally in stand-in sevens captain Henry Hutchison in his endeavour to poach rugby league players for the national rugby side.
Hutchison has high hopes that the Sevens side will also benefit from the move to lure the NRL’s best young talent with the temptation of Olympic gold.
In his first stint as Australia coach from 2001 to 2005, Jones brought in backs Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Mat Rogers from rugby league in a high profile recruitment drive.
Rugby union has fallen on hard times in Australia in recent years, limiting its attraction to talented youngsters, but there is no shortage of players in Australia’s National Rugby League who played the game at schoolboy level.
Jones has made no secret of his desire to poach from rugby league since his return as Wallabies coach, with Joseph Suaalii expected to be the chief target.
The sevens format has in the past been used as a developmental tool for Rugby Australia, with the likes of Bernard Foley and Tate McDermott previously featuring in the World Series.
Fast-paced and more open than 15-a-side, the product will be on show in Sydney this weekend for the first time since before the pandemic in 2020.
Rugby has not been able to attract any top-tier NRL talent through the sevens program in recent years, with the likes of Lachlan Miller going the other way to Cronulla.
But Hutchison said he hoped sevens could help entice the likes of Sydney Roosters young gun Suaalii across.
“Definitely (it could be a lure),” Hutchison said when asked.
“Rugby Australia are doing a really good job to get the pillars all working together so it’s not XVs, sevens, women’s sevens and Wallaroos.
“We are trying to get one big happy family.
“So whatever talent Eddie looks to be bringing in from rugby league or overseas, I am sure they will have that opportunity to put their hand up if they would like to play in the sevens jersey.”
Hutchison said he had not seen much of 19-year-old Suaalii, but had no doubt he could be a star in the free-flowing sevens format.
“He is very good. So I am sure he would not be too bad (in sevens).”
Australia already have a cross-sport convert in their ranks for this weekend at Allianz Stadium, with Trae Williams to feature with regular captain Nick Malouf still out.
Dubbed the Quadzilla, the former sprinter opted against a return to athletics after missing selection in the sevens squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
His chance has come in the past two events, impressing despite defending-champion Australia’s drop to seventh in the rankings.
“With every tournament he gets better and grows as a footy player,” Hutchison said.
“With his electric speed he is a massive point of difference for our team. The more exposure he gets on the circuit, the better he is going to be.
“Sevens is a really niche sport, it takes exposure at the top level to become comfortable on the circuit and he is getting that at the moment.”