Expanded Aon University Sevens Series kicks-off this weekend

Photo: Karen Watson

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The all-new expanded 2018 Aon University Sevens Series kicks off this weekend in Hobart, with ten Universities now vying for the coveted title won in style by the University of Queensland last year.

The eight existing teams from last year’s inaugural competition – University of Queensland, Bond University, Griffith University, University of New England, Macquarie University, University of Canberra, Adelaide University – are joined in 2018 by newcomers the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

They will battle it out across five rounds over the next two months, as the tournament makes its way around the country in the hope of unearthing more young talent on the field, and attracting the next generation of girls off it.

Based on the hugely successful HSBC Sevens World Series model, the 10 teams will compete against each other at each venue in a round robin format on day one, followed by finals the following day, accruing points across the tournament to decide the eventual winner.

The team to beat will be the University of Queensland, who went unbeaten throughout the 2017 competition. But expect the chasing pack to have narrowed the gap over the last 12 months, and the introduction of two new sides makes for an even bigger and better challenge for those with designs on the title.

“The Aon University Sevens Series was the first of its kind in Australian sport as a University-based national competition when it was launched in 2017, and its success in year one has paved the way for an expanded competition in 2018, with plans for further expansion in 2019,” said Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle.

“The tournament has already unearthed three new squad members for our World Champion Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team, and is also attracting talented athletes from across the globe who are looking to test themselves in a genuine national Rugby Sevens competition.

“Not only does the series provide a crucial pathway for talented young players hoping to pursue an Olympic dream with our women’s Sevens team, each tournament is played in a festival atmosphere at the Universities which offers a great experience for fans.”

One person in particular who is hoping to profit from the tournament’s success is Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach, John Manenti. With the build-up to Tokyo 2020 ramping up over the coming months, he is on the look-out for a few more names to add into the mix as he tries to forge a team ready to defend their Olympic title in two years time.

“The Aon University Sevens Series was a fantastic competition in 2017 and I know it is going to be bigger and better this season,” he said. “Players want to be playing in this competition and testing themselves against the best Sevens athletes across the country.

“We have seen Page McGregor, Yasmin Meakes and Lauren Brown come from this series a season ago and become regular members of the Australian squad, and I know there will be a lot of players putting their hands up to join those three players ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.”

The 2018 series gets underway tomorrow at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, with every match to be streamed LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.

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2018 Aon UNIVERSITY SEVENS SERIES

Round 1: August 25-26, University of Tasmania, Hobart

Round 2: September 8-9, University of Canberra, Canberra

Round 3: September 22-23, University of Queensland, Brisbane

Round 4: October 6-7, Bond University, Gold Coast

Round 5: October 20-21, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide

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