Rugby Union

Tom Cusack reunites with Australian sevens coach Andy Friend

It is the Canberra connection set to be reunited for a gold-medal bid, but Tom Cusack jokes that he hopes his new Australian sevens coach does not hold grudges after a schoolboy career spent trying to hit Andy Friend's son.

Former Brumbies coach Andy Friend will return to Australian rugby as the sevens coach.
Former Brumbies coach Andy Friend will return to Australian rugby as the sevens coach. Photo: Richard Briggs

Cusack and Friend will team up for Australia's Olympic Games medal bid in Rio de Janeiro later this year after Friend signed a 2½-year deal to take charge of the sevens program.

It comes less than 10 years after Marist College's Cusack and Friend's son, Josh, went head-to-head in the capital's schoolboy rugby competition.

Tom Cusack in action for the Australian sevens side.
Tom Cusack in action for the Australian sevens side. Photo: Getty Images

The pair, who both played for Royals in Canberra, also rubbed shoulders when Friend was the ACT Brumbies coach and emerging back-rower Cusack was invited to use the club's facilities.

But now they have a much bigger goal on their minds as they prepare to join forces to chase success in Rio.

"I used to play against Josh all the time when we were at school ... who knows, [Friend] might bench me the first couple of tournaments [after the schoolboy rivalry]," Cusack joked.

"I'm excited about what's to come and it's good to have Friendy there as well. It looks like there's some stability around the squad which is massive for the playing group.

"We've obviously got a friendly connection from knowing each other previously. But now it's about what he expects from me as a player and we'll establish that now. It's kind of a clean slate in that regards, I'm really looking forward to it."

Friend will return to Australia at the end of January to start his sevens role after four seasons in Japan.

He already has a head start on building some relationships within the team after his stint as Brumbies mentor.

Cusack and Lewis Holland were part of an emerging group of Canberra schoolboys when Friend was in charge, while James Stannard was in the Brumbies Super Rugby squad.

Friend will also reunite with Brumbies winger Henry Speight, who he recruited to Canberra for the 2011 season.

"I watched Tommy come through the Canberra rugby ranks at Marist and it's great having a couple of Canberra boys involved," Friend said.

"I had some long chats with Tommy when he was looking to make his choice between 15-a-side and sevens and I think this is a great pathway.

"I first saw Henry playing for the Waikato Chiefs coming off the bench in 2009 and managed to snag him for the Brumbies. He's been a revelation ever since.

"To have a guy of that calibre, it's a great sign for the sevens program."

The sevens team has returned to training while it waits for Friend to join the squad for a world series tournament in Wellington later this month.

Friend will then take the reins for the Sydney sevens on February 6-7.

Cusack is fighting for long-term selection and his Olympic goal after turning down an approach from the Brumbies.

He will face a massive test in Wellington when he goes up against cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams who is at the start of his journey to Rio.

"You love to face the best and [Williams] is no exception. I'm excited by that possibility and no one will shy away, I'm sure the challenge will excite players," Cusack said.

"Now that we've got Friendy on board it gives you confidence for stability knowing he's full-time with us and he's in charge.

"Our previous coaches and interim coaches have been instrumental in getting us qualified for the Olympics and now it's time to keep going forward."