AAP Rugby

Malouf to lead Aust rugby 7s Tokyo charge

By AAP Newswire

Still searching for consistency, Australian rugby sevens coach Tim Walsh has sprung a leadership change just six months out from the Olympic Games.

Nick Malouf will take the reins from Lewis Holland ahead of their Tokyo tilt, Holland to assume vice-captaincy with Lachlan Anderson at their next world series leg in New Zealand next weekend.

The well-travelled Malouf was part of Australia's Rio campaign, joining Leicester in England for a season before being lured back for another shot at Olympic gold in Japan.

Malouf had been Holland's deputy since returning and recently stepped up while Holland has been injured.

Both men played decisive roles in Australia's brave comeback win over Samoa that sealed their Toyko berth last year.

But Walsh has swapped their roles permanently as the team searches for elusive consistency.

"It's always been a team-first mentality and we believe this make-up is going to get the best out of the individuals," the coach said.

"To see the guys perform at times and not at others ... we are at the stage where we can be more consistent with it.

"And hopefully we're hitting the Olympics at full strength, mentally and physically ready."

Hamilton's world series leg will see the debut of a new format devoid of the quarter-final stage, where only the top side from each pool will progress directly to the semi-finals.

Australia are eighth after two legs and ranked lower than pool rivals Argentina, Fiji and Samoa thanks to a poor showing in their last outing in Cape Town.

They will boast a strong squad, though, with Dylan Pietsch to play for the first time since last July and offensive weapons Henry Hutchison, Ben O'Donnell, Maurice Longbottom and Holland fit again.

AUSTRALIA: Nick Malouf (capt), Joe Pincus, Lachlan Anderson, Jeral Skelton, Jesse Parahi, Dylan Pietsch, Maurice Longbottom, Josh Turner, Lewis Holland, Ben O'Donnell, Henry Hutchison, Lachlan Miller, Rod Davies (13th man).