Australia’s rugby sevens teams will kick off their Olympic year at the Bayleys Fiji Coral Coast Sevens in Sigatoka.
The Aussie Thunderbolts (men) and Aussie Pearls (women) today confirmed their participation at Fiji’s premier sevens tournament to be staged in January 2016.
“Everyone in the Australian Sevens program is looking forward to the challenge in what is the most exciting time ever to be a rugby sevens player,” said men’s captain Ed Jenkins. “Having qualified for the Olympic Games our target is now a medal and we will be doing all we can to achieve that next August.
“Playing at Lawaqa Park against some of the toughest sevens players in the world will also help the squad’s preparations for the inaugural HSBC Sydney 7s, the rest of the world series and of course Rio.”
Australia, who emphatically qualified for the Olympics after a string of impressive performances at the Oceania Sevens a fortnight ago culminating in a 50-0 Cup Final win, will join 15 other teams in the sixth edition of the Bayleys Fiji Coral Coast Sevens.
The Thunderbolts reached the Cup semi finals there in 2012 and head back as the champions of partner tournament the UON Central Coast Sevens.
“We’re aware no men’s team has held both titles,” continued Jenkins.  “We know previous Coral Coast champions like Police, Yamacia and Wardens are all quality sides.  Their style, the conditions and the environment are all hard to counter but will certainly be targeting a victory.
“However, the coaches will probably also look to try a few players for the year ahead.”
Current Wallaby Henry Speight, originally from Suva, is a possible inclusion having signalled his desire for Rio, while regulars such as Jenkins, James Stannard, Cameron Clark and Pama Fou and teenage newcomer Henry Hutchison are also contenders for the Thunderbolts. 
Meanwhile, the Aussie Pearls (pictured) return as defending Crest Na Iri Trophy champion.
The women, who qualified for the Olympics having finished third in last year’s Women Sevens World Series, beat Serevi Selects (USA) in Sigatoka 19-7 a year ago and also won at the Central Coast last month.
“We can’t wait to get back to Fiji and the spiritual home of sevens,” said captain Sharni Williams.  “In an Olympic year all the girls will be pushing for spots and the Coral Coast Sevens is a great tournament to test ourselves.
“While the games are hard, the hospitality of the Fijian people is something special and we all have some amazing friends in rugby through our previous visits to Sigatoka.”
“We are thrilled with this news that these two great sides will return to Fiji,” said Jay Whyte, Founding Chairman of the Bayleys Fiji Coral Coast Sevens.  “Under Tim Walsh and the rest of the management team Australia has performed wonders in the last few months and there are exciting times ahead for all the teams heading to Rio. 
“We all know that competition is critical in the build up to Rio and we are pleased to play our part in preparing not only our Fijian players but those returning from around the globe.”
Men’s and women’s teams are also travelling from New Zealand, Germany, Samoa, Tonga and the USA.
The tournament runs from January 14-16.