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Aussie Pearls, Thunderbolts named for Coral Coast Sevens

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The Aussie Pearls (women) and Aussie Thunderbolts (men) domestic Sevens sides have been named to take the field at the Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji from Thursday 15 – Saturday 17 November. The last time the two 'A' sides played they were both victorious at the Noosa Sevens in October and coaches Michael O'Connor and Chris Lane will be looking for their players to repeat their form in Fiji.

With the men's HSBC Sevens World Series already underway and the inaugural IRB Women's Sevens World Series set to kick-off in less than a month, both coaches are utilising the tournament to expose their development teams to more game time.

For Qantas Men's Sevens coach Michael O'Connor, the tournament is invaluable preparation for Dubai.

"Our performance at the Gold Coast Sevens showed we've still got work to do, so this tournament is very timely for our Dubai preparations," O'Connor said. "It's all about getting the guys exposed to good competition. This is a quality tournament and wouldn't be far off a World Series standard, so it's a good opportunity to see the players perform in a high-pressure environment."

Jesse Parahi will captain the Thunderbolts in place of regular captain Ed Jenkins, who is being rested due to a minor shoulder injury received during the Gold Coast Sevens. The squad will also feature three new faces in Sunnybank's Peter Lee and University of Queensland players Harry Parker and Tom Pincus.

With some players under an injury cloud, O'Connor will be looking for his players to confirm they're ready for Dubai.

"It will be important for Dubai selections," O'Connor said. "We've got a few injuries at the moment, so guys know if they can show form in Fiji they're a chance to play in Dubai."

Women's coach Chris Lane is also using the tournament to prepare his players for the first round of the inaugural IRB Women's Sevens World Series, which will also be held in Dubai.

"We're using this as prep for Dubai, we've got two regulars in Sharni Williams and Rebecca Tavo who are sitting this one out," Lane said. "We've brought in Nicki Etheridge and d'Arcy Sadler as cover and we're also continuing to develop Alex Sulusi, Jess Palmer and Maddi Elliot, who played for the Pearls at the Noosa International Sevens.

"Their form was very good in Noosa, so much so that it was impossible to leave them out of the trip to Fiji."

Emilee Cherry, recently named the Australian Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year, will captain the side.

"She's a natural and she is vice-captain of the Australian Women's Touch side as well, so it makes sense that she takes on the captaincy role with Rebecca resting," Lane said. "She made her debut for the Pearls in September last year and since then she's made massive strides in Rugby Sevens.

"We've had a real focus on expanding the squad and a lot of girls have earned their spots, there's a lot of competition in the squad at the moment."

The Coral Coast Sevens is a three-day invitational tournament featuring six pools and 24 teams in the men's competition and two pools and eight teams in the women's.

On the men's side, the Aussie Thunderbolts feature in Pool B, alongside Auckland Marist, Hideaway Hurricanes and SRS Navosa Warriors.

On the women's side, the Aussie Pearls feature alongside Pacific Two Blues, Lady Babas and Striders.

The Qantas Men's Sevens and Qantas Women's Sevens sides will return to international competition on 30 November when they both travel to Dubai to compete in their respective World Series events.