*

upload_article_image

Kerevi preparing to play 7s for Australia at Tokyo Olympics

Ex-Wallabies center Samu Kerevi has returned from Japan to have a shot at making Australia’s rugby sevens team for the Tokyo Olympics.

The 27-year-old midfielder has been included in Australia’s team to play against Olympic champion Fiji, New Zealand and an Oceania Barbarians team in the June 25-27 Oceania Championship in Townsville, northern Queensland state.

Head coach Tim Walsh announced his squad Thursday, including a first selection for Kerevi as well the return of Lewis Holland, Lachlan Anderson and Tim Anstee from their Super Rugby commitments.

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2019 file photo, Australia's Samu Kerevi is tackled by Wales' Jonathan Davies during the Rugby World Cup Pool D game at Tokyo Stadium between Australia and Wales in Tokyo, Japan. Kerevi has been named in the Australian 7's squad for the Tokyo Olympics. (AP PhotoEugene Hoshiko,File)

After playing 33 tests and being a regular starter for Australia in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, Kerevi hasn't been available for Wallabies' selection because he's based overseas.

Kerevi hasn't played for Australia in the sevens format at all, but Walsh has suggested the ball-running, heavy-tackling midfielder can be well used as an impact player.

“The attitude we took through COVID has delivered a highly competitive squad in which to select from," Walsh said. "Players who wouldn’t have dreamt of being considered for selection are now in the mix and representing the program at an elite level.

“The addition of Samu is a welcome achievement for the program and underpins one of the program’s objectives – retain, recruit and develop the best Australian rugby players." Walsh said he was grateful to Japanese club Suntory for releasing Kerevi for the sevens program.

This will be Fiji’s first tournament in more than a year because of restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand recently hosted a series with the Australian men’s and women’s sevens teams.

The Oceania Championship women's tournament will include Australia's Olympic champion squad, New Zealand and Fiji.

It will be the last tournament for all teams to fine-tune for the Tokyo Olympics, where the men's rugby sevens tournament kicks off on July 26 and will be followed by the women's competition.

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports