Interim coach Tim Walsh has ruled out guiding Australian men’s rugby sevens team at the Rio Olympics, saying he’s too committed to the well-performed women’s team.
Walsh arrived in Rio at the weekend to inspect the 2016 Olympic sites in his role as women’s coach only to discover the rugby sevens venue is still an empty field.
That was his second shock.
The first came within hours of touching down in Rio when he was appointed interim coach of the Australian men’s team after Welshman Geraint John abruptly resigned for family reasons.
Walsh said it was a big job, with the men’s team yet to qualify for the Olympics and just two opportunities remaining.
His priority was to guide the squad successfully through its Oceania Olympic qualifier in November, but he had no plans to stay on beyond that.
“I’m very committed to the girls. We’ve worked incredibly hard, and there’s no way I would turn my back on them leading into such an important season,” said Walsh.
The women’s team qualified for the Olympics back in May through the World Series where they finished third behind only New Zealand and Canada.
The men’s team missed out on automatic Rio qualification by one spot when they finished fifth in their World Series and now must contest Oceania qualifying tournament on November 14 and 15 where they faces stiff competition for the region’s sole Olympic berth from Samoa.
Walsh and team manager Scott Bowen visited Rio’s second-largest Olympic zone in the neighbourhood of Deodoro, where rugby will be played.
The pair needed a bit of imagination to envisage how the 15,000-capacity temporary stadium will look when it goes up early next year.
“It really is just a patch of dirt. At least it’s flat, but there isn’t really anything significant to suggest that it’s underway,” said Walsh.
“We have complete faith in the Olympic organising committee to get it done. I’m not too worried, but it was quite underwhelming.”
Walsh is concentrating on what Australia’s teams can do to ensure they reach the podium, and believes preparation will be the difference between winning and losing.
“The beauty of it is, out of all the Sevens teams, no one’s done (an Olympics) before,” he said.
“We’re all on a level playing field in terms of experience, so it’s really going to be, who’s going to take the right approach leading into the Games.”