Code-hopper Jarryd Hayne won’t be the only Olympic hopeful desperate to stand out at the London Sevens this weekend, with a new-look Australian side also offered one final chance to secure a spot at the Rio Games.
Most eyes will be on former NRL and NFL star Hayne, who will learn on Friday morning (evening AEST) whether he has made the cut for the Fijian 12-man squad for the final sevens tournament before the Olympics.
The two-time Dally M medal winner made the switch this week from the spotlight of the NFL to pursue his Olympic dream – but for a host of Australian players, that dream has been more than a week in the making.
And whether it becomes a reality could all come down to two days at Twickenham.
Australian coach Andy Friend has made six changes to the side that reached the semi-finals in Paris last week, making the most of an opportunity to cast his eye over some potential Olympic bolters.
The likes of forward Jesse Parahi, who started the season at NRL outfit Wests Tigers, and affable former Wallaby Nick Cummins will get a chance to cement their places in Friend’s best lineup with pool games against Wales, England and Fiji.
The Fiji showdown will give Australia a glimpse at gold-medal favourites Fiji, who enter the weekend needing only to reach the quarter-finals to secure back-to-back titles, as well as the Hayne sideshow.
The 28-year-old faces an uphill battle to prove himself in a fast-paced game in which he’s unfamiliar, while trying to break into the world’s No.1 team on the back of just two practice sessions in London this week.
Parahi, who made his sevens comeback in Paris last weekend, admitted he’d found it difficult to transition back into the relentless format and predicted Hayne, who bulked up his 189cm frame to handle the rigours of the NFL, could be in for a rough ride.
“Six months out of the game and I’m feeling like I fell behind quite a bit, so I think it will be pretty tough for Jarryd moving forward,” 26-year-old Parahi told Sky Sports Radio.
“(Sevens) is a completely different beast to the NRL and more so the NFL.
“It’s really short, but you’re left out on your feet for 14 minutes.”