University of Canberra sevens recruit Abby Gustaitis hopes to turn heads in new competition
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University of Canberra sevens recruit Abby Gustaitis hopes to turn heads in new competition

University of Canberra sevens recruit Abby Gustaitis is used to getting strange looks because of her sporting choice, but the United States import hopes to turn heads for a different reason in the capital.

Gustaitis will make her Australian university sevens debut in Sydney on Saturday when she joins the Canberra side for the second series of the tournament.

United States World Cup star star Abby Guastaivis has moved to Canberra.

United States World Cup star star Abby Guastaivis has moved to Canberra.Credit:Rohan Thomson

Still riding high after helping the USA Eagles to a fourth-placed finish at the women's World Cup, Gustaitis is keen to use her stint in Canberra as a launching pad to the sevens world series.

The US is a giant on the rise in the men's and women's rugby sevens and Gustaitis, a former basketball, made the switch to the largely unknown sport seven years ago.

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"When I tell people I play rugby, they look at me and ask, 'is that the one with the stick," Gustaitis grinned.

"I was at the University of Maryland and one of my friends said she wanted to try rugby and dragged me along to practise. I haven't looked back since then.

"Most people are pretty shocked, but the potential for rugby growth is huge in America. Especially with sevens ... it could be such a hit so I'm hoping to get some more game time and experience here."

Gustaitis will be a massive inclusion for the Canberra side which finished sixth at the opening round of the season in Tasmania.

Rugby is the 26-year-old's passion, but Gustaitis has a degree in physiology and neurobiology and is also preparing to sit an eight hour exam to qualify for medical school.

Her long term goal is to break into the US sevens squad to join an around-the-world tour as well as chasing a spot at the Olympic Games in 2020.

She will have the perfect person to learn off in Canberra, with Australian sevens gold-medal winning skipper Sharni Williams to join the squad on Saturday.

"I met Sharni in Ireland at the [15-a-side] World Cup ... we were staying in the same hotel as the Australian team so we all started chatting," Gustaitis said.

"I'm really looking forward to having a go with her on the field, she's an incredible athlete, player and leader. If I can learn from her, that would be awesome.

"If I can play against and with these high-level athletes in my time here, it's only going to help my development. Hopefully when I get back home, I can share that knowledge. I just love the game."

Williams was set to make her debut for the Canberra side in Sydney, but has been granted an extra week to recuperate after a taxing World Cup campaign and international sevens season.

Former Queanbeyan Gift winner Sophie Broadhead has also been ruled out after breaking two ribs at training, opening the door for Regan Hart to join the squad.

Coach Dave Grimmond hopes Gustaitis will add punch to the Canberra to help them chase their first series win.

"Abby will bring a lot more go-forward to us, she will be able to take us through some holes to get us going," Grimmond said.

"She's been great so far and has come straight in from Dublin. All in all, we're going to be better than we were in the first tournament."

AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITY SEVENS

Saturday: University of Canberra v Bond University at 10.40am, University of Canberra v Macquarie University at 12.40pm, University of Canberra v University of Adelaide at 3pm. All games at Macquarie University and streamed live on rugby.com.au.

Canberra squad for round two: Regan Hart, Sarah Carter, Abby Gustaitis, Ash Kara (C), Michaela Leonard, Ema Masi, Samantha Maxwell, Yasmin Meakes, Darcy Read, Cassandra Staples, Talei Wilson, Samantha Wood.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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