Wallabies World Cup wing Henry Speight has been named in an extended Australia Sevens squad that will participate in an Olympics qualification tournament in Auckland this weekend.
Speight has been named in Australia Sevens interim head coach Tim Walsh's extended 15-man squad for the Oceania Regional Olympic Qualifier which will be held on Saturday and Sunday.
Ed Jenkins skippers an experienced side that also includes veterans Jesse Parahi and Con Foley. Pama Fou, Greg Jeloudev and Henry Hutchison offer pace out wide alongside Speight.
Tom Cusack has been rewarded for a series of powerful performances during the recent Central Coast Sevens with a spot in the squad and star centre Cameron Clark returns after a minor hamstring problem. James Stannard, Lewis Holland, Allan Fa’alava’au and Tom Lucas assume playmaking duties.
Three players will be omitted from the final squad on Thursday.
Pat McCutcheon (hamstring) and Nick Malouf (knee) were not considered due to injury.
Walsh is confident his side are on course to qualify for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We have prepared well having played a very valuable series against New Zealand in Rotorua followed by a solid performance at the Central Coast Sevens," he told the Australian Rugby Union's official website.
“Training standards have been high and every squad member continues to challenge one another which has culminated in a stronger team.
"We have a belief that we will perform and gain us the desired result. However, with a spot at the Rio Olympics on the line in Auckland, we are under no illusion that now is the time to deliver.
“For us, it is all process and executing under pressure as there are seven other teams looking to fulfil their own Olympic dream.
"The Pacific Island nations are known for their passion for rugby and in particular Sevens so we can expect a lot of physicality.
"I’ve heard many people say Samoa will be our main opponents for that coveted spot but I don’t buy into that at all – as per usual, we will be paying due respect to our pool and won’t be looking any further than Day One.”
On the inclusion of Henry Speight in the touring party, Walsh added: "We have been preparing for this tournament for a number of months now and obviously Henry hasn’t spent any time with the squad as yet.
"However, we felt this was an ideal opportunity for him to get used to some of our systems and familiarise himself with the playing group.
"Despite only arriving back from the Rugby World Cup last week, Henry was keen to travel which underlines the passion he has to be part of this squad."
Australia will play Nauru, Cook Islands and Tonga on Day One at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere (Auckland). Pool B, meanwhile, will feature Samoa, Papua New Guinea, American Samoa and the Soloman Islands.
All competing teams will progress to finals day and seeded according to their final pool placing – for example: 1st in Pool A will play 4th in Pool B, 2nd in Pool A will play 3rd in Pool B.
Only the winning team at the Oceania Regional Olympic Qualifier will secure a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The runners-up and third-placed side in the tournament will secure spots in the Final Olympic Qualification Tournament (date TBC).
Australian Sevens squad (three to be omitted):
Cameron Clark, Tom Cusack, Allan Fa'alava'au, Con Foley, Pama Fou, Lewis Holland, Henry Hutchison, Greg Jeloudev, Ed Jenkins, Tom Lucas, Sam Myers, Jesse Parahi, Henry Speight, James Stannard, Michael Wells