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Wallabies Samu Kerevi named in the Australian 7s squad for the Commonwealth Games

One of the first differences Samu Kerevi noticed between being part of the Wallabies and the Australian 7s team came on day one when he climbed on the team bus with his new 7s teammates.

“When you come into a Wallabies squad there’s about 500 guys here, there’s two buses,” Kerevi said Tuesday, after being named on the Aussie 7s team for the Commonwealth Games later this month.

“With 7s, the first bus trip, I was sitting there waiting for everyone else, and [then the bus left]. That was the squad. You get real close to the guys, get to know them really well.”

Kerevi is humble servant of three masters – the Wallabies, his Japanese club team Suntory Sungoliath and the Australian 7s team he joined up with before the Tokyo Olympics. The first two gigs pay him northwards of $1.2 million a season – which means he earns around 10 times anyone else who was sitting on that bus.

The big pay packet and 15s fame means Kerevi is a marquee and marked man in the 7s arena, and he couldn’t ignore it.

“That’s always on my mind,” he said. “Especially coming in last year to the squad. I just want to come in and make sure they know I’m there to push for a spot. And I’m there to work hard.

“That was the biggest part of me coming in was just making sure I put my head down, listen, have a glass half full.

“I’m not the best player in the world, I don’t want to come in and think I know everything. I’m always willing to learn and listen to guys in the 7s program and the coaching staff and get better.”

Kerevi isn’t playing sevens for the cash, or even the chance of a gold medal later this month. Think personal development.

He says he enjoys it because “it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for a big guy like me to have five, seven metres beside me and having to track a guy that has great feet, and great speed.

“Part of it is me stepping into an uncomfortable zone that I want to overcome.”

Samu Kerevi poses during the Australian Wallabies 2022 team headshots session on June 24, 2022 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Samu Kerevi. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

There is an aspect of payback to his selection for Birmingham – at a time when he could be recuperating after the Test series against England preparing for likely appearances in The Rugby Championship.

The 7s program gave him a go at a time when he was out of the Wallabies set up, and provided a path back into Dave Rennie’s calculations.

“Sevens hold a special part in my heart,” Kerevi said. “I was away for a long time and for me to be able to come back to Australia and put on the gold jersey was important to me and I wasn’t in the 15s at the time.

“They gave me that opportunity and welcomed me with open arms. That was the bond we made last year after the Olympics. I gave them my word that if I was available I would definitely come back and try with Com Games and here we are.”

The squad members have welcomed him back on the bus and he’s keen to “influence the boys in a positive way and give back a bit of knowledge that I’ve learned from the game.”

And he plays down the personal motivation of coming home with a medal later this month.

“I want to get a medal for the program more than just myself,” he said. “I understand how the program’s toughed it out the last couple of years.

“Of course it would be special. Not a lot of guys in 15s get to transition over to 7s and try to win an Olympic gold medal or Commonwealth gold medal.

“The program deserves a medal. The coaching staff and everyone involved in 7s work extremely hard to get the program going every year. We want to win for that.”

Kerevi feels his 7s experience has also helped him in the 15s, where’s moved from No.13 to No.12 and is rated by many judges as the best inside centre in the world.

As well as it fitness, he has benefitted from “the skill set part of the game, my passing, my tracking, defence.

“I had a guy like Maurice Longbottom, I would try to track him at training sessions. First couple of weeks I’d just be catching thin air. Slowly and slowly I got better in that space.”

It’s that thirst for improvement and learning that will take him to the Com Games, and also to the very top of the game in 15s. That and a refusal to accept that he’s already arrived.

“I personally don’t think I’m one of the best 12s at the moment. There’s so much more that I need to grow in my game,” said Kerevi.

“Playing 12 I get the ball a bit quicker. I’m close to the action so especially when we’re going backwards or anything and I pride myself on going forward. I pride myself on that physical part of the game.

“That transition to 12 was for me getting more touches on the ball. It’s a lot easier on defence. Lenny [Ikitau’s] a great defender at 13, guys like Hunter [Paisami] who can put on big shots and Perese so I’m more comfortable at 12 now.

“The  transition to 12 helps me with the comms to Lenny. I know what the 13 needs being playing there. It’s definitely still a part of my game I want to grow in terms of passing and kicking. With a bigger body a 12, I think it’s just closer to the action.”

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