Australia men's sevens believe they can win a medal at Tokyo Olympics

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Confidence is building within the Australian men's sevens team as they hunt a medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, with star playmaker Maurice Longbottom insisting his team have the talent to be there when it matters.

With all eyes on the Australian women's sevens team and their journey to potential back-to-back gold medals, it could be said the men's side have been travelling under the radar over the past 12 months as they prepare for their own journey to Olympic glory.

Longbottom doesn't buy into that idea though.

Despite the team's failure to feature in the medal matches at the 2016 Rio Games, Longbottom believes there's still plenty of pressure for his side to perform and come home with a medal, especially after they began to show promise in the final World Rugby Sevens tournaments before the COVID-19 pandemic halted and then cancelled the series.

"I don't think that at all, I think there's pressure definitely on us to come through and provide and get the win," Longbottom told ESPN at the Australian Olympic team uniform launch in Sydney.

"There's pressure on everybody, everybody's going there to win, no one's going there just to compete, everyone's trying to get on the podium.

"They've [the women's team] already been there and they've won it so there's always going to be more hype for the girls, but there's still definitely pressure on us to go over there and perform and get the win."

Teammate Henry Hutchison, one of the senior members of the team who featured at the men's failed Rio tournament, is happy to adopt the underdog tag, believing some of his teammates best rugby is produced when their backs are against the wall.

"Underdogs is good, isn't it?" Hutchison told ESPN. "We love being underdogs, Australians are naturally underdogs, we'll use that to our advantage.

"But our team now is really different to the team we were four years ago. We're a lot more experienced; we've been there, we've done that, and we've learnt from those experiences from four years ago.

"I like to back ourselves when our backs are against the wall and when the pressure's on, that's when some of our players do their best work. It's nice not having the No. 1 tag on our back, but we'll have pressure on ourselves internally and externally from people who know where we should be performing."

Hit hard by COVID in March 2020, questions swirled around what the men's rugby sevens program would look like in the run in to a delayed Olympic Games. Despite that derailment, Longbottom believes his team have come out stronger because of it.

"We had a bit of a big hit there," Longtbottom said. "But we didn't stop training. Our whole group said 'Tokyo's the goal, we can either shut up shop here and sit on our hands and knees, or we can just stick with it'.

"We were training with groups of two, groups of three, making sure we're getting our job done. I think coming out of that as we did it just made our group stronger and tighter."

Unable to take the field in a professional capacity in over a year, the men's team have been forced to improvise, playing internal scrimmages, returning to grassroots rugby as well as playing matches against NSW, Queensland and a Pacific Islander teams across two tournaments. They now hope to bring Fiji and New Zealand, ranked world No. 3 and No. 1 respectively, to Australia for an Oceania tournament as final preparations for Tokyo.

"I'm feeling good, the team's in a really good space at the moment, we've had a few internal games against NSW and Queensland and Pacific Islander team, that's something we need for our preparations. I feel like the team's in a really good space at the moment," Longbottom told ESPN.

"It'd be great for all three teams if we can get it to happen. It can only be good for us to play against them, go back and watch the footage and see what we need to fix and what we don't need to fix, so it'll only benefit us in the long run."