Lewis Holland: Aussie 7s a genuine Olympic gold medal threat
With just over four months until Rugby Sevens makes its debut at the Rio Olympics, Australia unveiled their official uniforms in Sydney last week.
The “retro candy stripe” outfits received mixed reviews from punters, but that couldn’t be further from Olympic hopeful Lewis Holland’s mind.
“To be perfectly honest, if I get the chance to go to the Olympics I won’t be too worried about what I’m wearing,” the 23-year old told Rugby News.
“EJ (Ed Jenkins) looked pretty comfortable, he’s always putting his hand up for those poster moments, so it was good for Ed to try on a new outfit and add to his collection.”
Sledges aside, Holland’s demeanour quickly changed when asked if Australia were a genuine gold medal threat in Rio.
“We aren’t playing just to compete mate, we go into every match we play to win.”
“I think the best thing about our squad is that we know we still haven’t played our best footy yet and if we can keep improving on the little things that we are working on, then we are definitely a chance.”
After a slow start to the 2015-16 World Series, Australia have finished in the top three in three successive tournaments, narrowly missing out on an illusive World Series victory in both Sydney and Las Vegas.
Australia led New Zealand and Fiji respectively in both deciders, but were unable to strike the final blow and claim their first series win since Tokyo in 2012.
“No one likes to lose, particularly two finals back to back, so it does make you more eager and I think you can definitely see that at training at the moment,” Holland said.
“Looking back on those games, we let both sides back into the matches and went away from how we wanted to play but I think we’ve learnt from that and now hopefully we know what we need to do to close out those crucial games.”
Despite his age, Holland is one of the squad’s more experienced players having joined the program back in 2011.
Born near Queanbeyan, the Australian Schoolboy joined the Brumbies Academy after graduating from Canberra’s St Edmund’s college.
As an 18-year old, Holland starred for the Brumbies Academy at the Darwin Sevens in front of former Aussie Sevens coach Michael O’Connor and was invited to join the National Sevens program soon after.
“Back then it was quite different. We weren’t full time yet so you would go back to your club between tournaments,” he recalled.
“I would go back to the Brumbies and train by myself with our strength and conditioning coach and then a week before each tournament, we’d come together to begin our preparation.”
The ARU introduced a centralised full time program based in Narrabeen in 2014, a move Holland believes has been crucial to his sides recent success.
“It’s made a huge difference, obviously the squad is a lot tighter now that we are together most of the time. Plus you aren’t training in small groups or by yourself, you are with the team the whole time, working on combinations and trying different things.”
Despite failing to win a tournament, Australia’s recent run of good form has included a handful of victories against the World Series’ big three – New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa.
“When you do beat sides like Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa it gives you a huge amount of momentum and next time you face them, you go into the match with a lot more confidence.”
But that, according to Holland, wouldn’t compare to the confidence the Australians would gain from winning won of the four remaining legs of this year’s World Series.
“It’d be massive. Obviously everyone is talking about the Olympics but at the moment we are focussed on the World Series and we’ve got Hong Kong up next this weekend.
“To win that would be an absolute dream, it’s probably the biggest tournament on the circuit and I think if you talk to anyone, they’d pick Hong Kong as the tournament that they’d most like to win.”
Australia faces Argentina, USA and Portugal in their pool matches in Hong Kong, beginning on Friday night at 6:30pm (AEST).
Australia squad: Nick Cummins, Tom Kingston, Sam Myers, Lewis Holland, James Stannard, Con Foley, Cameron Clark, Stephan Van Der Walt, Ed Jenkins (captain), Allan Fa’alava’au, John Porch, Boyd Killingworth.