Sharni shifts into finals mode

Sharni Williams.

Batlow icon and national rugby star Sharni Williams has been selected in the Wallaroos squad for the Rugby World Cup in Ireland this year.

Wallaroos coach Paul Verrell named the 28-woman squad in Sydney last Wednesday, including Batlow’s very own Olympic gold medallist.

Sharni was a driving force behind the Australian rugby sevens’ victory at the Olympic Games in Rio last year, and was vital to the team’s win of their first-ever gold medal.

After her success with the sevens in Rio, Sharni is eager to return to the 15-a-side World Cup tournament, but she is aware that it will be a challenge.

“Stepping from sevens to fifteens will be an eye-opener. It’s tough to come off the back of playing in a fast-paced game like sevens to fifteens, which is a bit slower,” she said.

Having been a key player for the Wallaroos in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, the Batlow-born star is returning to the competition for her third round.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Sharni said.

This year, the Wallaroos side features Sharni and fellow sevens gold-medallist Shannon Parry at the helm. With only two uncapped players in their squad, Sharni said that the team’s wealth of experience would be crucial to their success.

“We’ve got a lot of experience, and we’ll definitely need it,” she said.

The Wallaroos are in Pool C, and will come up against competitive rivals France, Japan and Ireland.

The Australian side is currently ranked sixth, just behind France and Ireland, and well above Japan in 14th position.

While this pool will no doubt provide the Aussie side with a challenge, Sharni is confident in their preparation so far.

“This is the best prepared we’ve been going into a World Cup.

“They’ve done the best they can to get us ready, so now it’ll just come down to experience and our preparation once we get over to Ireland,” she said.

Locally, support for Sharni and her accomplishments has been unwavering, and she is honoured to represent her hometown on the international stage once again.

“It’s unreal to represent your country, but to represent Batlow, with its 1,300 people, is insane. To be able to say that not only part of the team but that I’m a captain – I just keep putting more feathers in my cap,” Sharni said.

The Wallaroos will come together in Sydney at the end of July before leaving for Ireland at the start of August for the World Cup’s commencement on August 9.