Interim coach Scott Bowen will usher Wallabies winger Henry Speight and fellow Super Rugby flyer Tom Kingston into Australia’s sevens team at next week’s world series opener in Dubai.
Bowen has taken the reins of the Thunderbolts for December’s two opening tournaments on the 10-leg world series circuit as the ARU takes its time to choose their successor to Welshman Geraint John.
John resigned unexpectedly in August due to personal reasons, which saw women’s coach Tim Walsh step in to help Australia’s men earn qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics with victory in this month’s qualifying tournament in Auckland.
Former Wallabies flyhalf and ex-Waratahs assistant coach Bowen helped Walsh in preparing the Thunderbolts for Auckland but he is not being considered as a fulltime head coach.
A shortlist of five candidates has been interviewed for the role with ARU general manager pathways Ben Whitaker saying he was hopeful the appointment would be made around Christmas time.
This would allow the new coach to take over in time for the third round of the world series in Wellington, a week before the inaugural Sydney Sevens on February 6-7.
Speight gets his Australian sevens debut in Dubai after travelling with the Thunderbolts to the Oceania qualifying tournament this month, as does South Africa-born Stephen van der Walt.
Former Waratahs and Rebels winger Kingston also gets a crack at impressing for an Olympic berth in the squad which is otherwise full of seasoned sevens specialists.
“The team is looking sharp and the players are fit and raring to go,” Bowen said. “As a group, we are battle-hardened having played in some high-pressure tournaments.”
Ed Jenkins will captain while game-breaking centre Cameron Clark needs just 30 points to overtake Peter Miller as Australia’s all-time leading points scorer in the history of the world series.
Thunderbolts squad: Ed Jenkins, Henry Speight, Tom Kingston, Sam Myers, Lewis Holland, James Stannard, Con Foley, Cameron Clark, Stephan van der Walt, Allan Fa’alava’au, Pama Fou, Tom Cusack.