March 23, 2016 / 6:13 AM / 2 years ago

'Honey badger' does the hard yakka in Rio rugby bid

SYDNEY (Reuters) - From ploughing through Norwegian snowfields to running in the red dirt of Australia’s remote Northwest, Wallabies winger Nick Cummins had prepared himself as best he could for the return to the high octane world of sevens rugby.

It was never going to be enough, though, and after his first session with the Rio-bound Australia squad on Wednesday, he joked that had it gone on any longer, he would have been choosing a tree on which to empty the contents of his stomach.

“Beautiful time of day, nice and warm, different to Japan, but look, these boys are fit, fitter than I am, as you can see,” the 28-year-old said between gasps on the side of the training pitch.

“I just did two full weeks of training in Sydney just so I could come last here today...”

Cummins, the self-anointed “Honey badger” of Australian rugby, is as well known for his look and creative use of local slang as he is for his try-scoring feats.

The shaggy blond hair, porn star moustache and larrikin language should not distract from a serious rugby talent that has earned him six tries in 15 tests for his country.

Not that his pedigree won him any deference from the other members of the squad on Wednesday.

“I know when I was a younger rooster, you’d be a bit worried about saying something to Matt Giteau or Drew Mitchell, you’d be bogging yourself thinking you’d get a flogging,” he said.

“But these blokes are legit, the young ones stand up and put you in your place and that’s what we need to have our best shot in Rio.”

SHIFT MANAGER

Unlike the other Wallabies targeting Rio, Quade Cooper and Henry Speight, Cummins is no stranger to the Australian sevens set-up and played in the team that won silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Cummins said he was confident he could quickly manage the shift from the obsession with gainline advantage in the 15-man game to a more opportunistic frame of mind.

“It all comes down to your fitness, but your mind’s more creative when you are not as bloody shagged,” he grinned.

“There is a potential Olympic spot there, what a year to do it, but it’s more about getting myself back ‘Eye of the Tiger’ like I was as a youngster there, and being as good as I can be.”

At the conclusion of the Japanese season, Cummins decided he needed a break after four seasons of back-to-back rugby and visited relatives in Norway and the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Between chopping wood in the Arctic north and fishing in the Timor Sea, he found time to drop in on the inaugural Sydney Sevens last month and enjoyed what he saw from the Australians.

“I was really impressed with youngsters having a go,” Cummins said.

“The old fashioned just give it a crack, it doesn’t matter how big you are or how small, just up the guts and have a lash at them.”

It is an attitude which Cummins has always brought to his own game and will fuel his bid for selection for next month’s Hong Kong Sevens, the seventh stop on the 10-leg World Series.

“He looked alright, the Badge, didn’t he?” Australia coach Andy Friend said.

“With him he’s a fighter. As he just said to the group, he’s not there yet... but on first-session viewing he’s a good fit.”

Editing by John O'Brien

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