Wallabies flyer Henry Speight is set to take his World Cup frustrations out in the Middle East next week when he’s handed his Australian international sevens debut.
Speight is expected to be named on Friday in the Thunderbolts’ 12-man team for the opening leg of the sevens world series circuit in Dubai.
A mere spectator for most of the Rugby World Cup, the Brumbies winger had been included in Australia’s extended squad for their Olympic qualifying success in Auckland a fortnight ago but ultimately missed out on the final cut.
The highly-motivated Speight – who had been set down to play in three tournaments next year – has continued to impress in training to be given an early and extra crack at making the Australian team for the Rio Games in August.
Australian Rugby Union general manager Ben Whitaker, who oversees the sevens program, said the Fiji-born flyer was champing at the bit after playing just one Test at last month’s World Cup.
“He’s come straight back from the World Cup and has joined the group straight away and that shows you how dedicated and motivated he is,” Whitaker told AAP.
“He’s itching to play.”
Speight will come into a team guided by an interim coach in former Wallabies flyhalf Scott Bowen, and also including Melbourne Rebels three-quarter Tom Kingston.
While the 2015-16 world series will kick off in a week’s time, Australia’s men won’t have a fulltime head coach until round three in New Zealand in late January.
A shortlist of five have been interviewed to replace Welshman Geraint John, and Whitaker tipped an appointment to be made around Christmas time.
Women’s coach Tim Walsh led the Thunderbolts to their Oceania qualifying tournament success in Auckland but he’s stepped back to focus on the Pearls.
Walsh on Thursday named his squad for their world series opener in Dubai, where captain Sharni Williams will extend a remarkable streak of playing in every leg of the series since its inception in 2012.
The Pearls finished the 2014-15 world series in third spot, ensuring automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics.
World champions New Zealand included Sonny Bill Williams’ sister, Niall, in their squad.
Australian women’s squad: Shannon Parry, Sharni Williams, Nicole Beck, Gemma Etheridge, Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite, Charlotte Caslick, Chloe Dalton, Amy Turner, Alicia Quirk, Emilee Cherry, Ellia Green.