New Zealand will be determined to claim their fifth straight title when Rugby Sevens kicks off in the 20th Commonwealth Games this week.
New Zealand will be determined to claim their fifth straight title when Sevens kicks off in what is the 20th Commonwealth Games this weekend.
Wins in Kuala Lumpur, Manchester, Melbourne and Delhi were memorable for the All Blacks Sevens, with Glasgow next on their wish list.
Standing in their way is Canada and Scotland in the pools before big guns such as South Africa, England, Samoa and Australia also challenge.
But what makes this tournament special is the non-core series teams on show as the likes of Barbados, Cook Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Uganda test their abilities against established sides, with Rio 2016 what everyone is striving for.
As mentioned, Pool A of New Zealand, Canada, Scotland and Barbados is arguably the toughest of the four due to three IRB Series core nations being involved. Many expect the fixture at 21:04 between the Canadians and Scots to be vital in deciding who joins the Kiwis in the Cup.
Pool B consists of South Africa, Kenya, Cook Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, with Pool C seeing Samoa, Wales, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia battle for progression to Sunday's elite competition. The remaining Pool pits England with Australia, Sri Lanka and Uganda in what should be a Cup progression formality for the more established duo on Day One.
The bookies understandably have New Zealand as favourites and South Africa, England, Australia, Samoa and Canada their closest rivals, but it will be interesting to see how Scotland raise their game in front of their fans. Kenya are also a team not to be written off.
But, with a record of zero defeats in four Commonwealth Games and a “brutal” training regime behind them, every team will be chasing down New Zealand, with captain DJ Forbes telling BBC Sport the rigorous work Sir Gordon Tietjens has been putting the team through.
“His methods are old school – 'brutal' is one of the words I'm sure a lot of people will agree with,” said the forward, with Tietjens revealing why he has put his team through the mill.
“It's fair comment that I'm quite hard, but I also believe I'm quite fair,” he said, with his side opening against Canada. “The condition levels required for rugby sevens are different to a 15-a-side game. In a 15-a-side game it's all about defence and there's not a lot of space.
“The guys who play sevens are all athletes. They're the fittest rugby players in New Zealand. They train hard and you've got to have that type of commitment if you want to be successful.”
“We find that every team that plays New Zealand goes into a game saying 'we've got nothing to lose'. So we treat every game like a final.
“I asked my players what drove them to gold in Delhi and they all said the same – they didn't want to be the first New Zealand sevens team to lose at a Commonwealth Games.
“The Games have been good to us and coming up in Glasgow the challenge for us is to get out there and hopefully win a fifth gold medal.”
Pool A: New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, Barbados
Pool B: South Africa, Kenya, Cook Islands, Trinidad and Tobago
Pool C: Samoa, Wales, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia
Pool D: England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Uganda
Saturday, July 26
10:32 – 10:48: Pool A Match 1 NZ V CAN
10:54 – 11:10: Pool D Match 1 AUS V SRI
11:16 – 11:32: Pool B Match 1 KEN V CKI
11:38 – 11:54: Pool C Match 1 SAM V PNG
12:00 – 12:16: Pool C Match 2 WAL V MAS
12:22 – 12:38: Pool B Match 2 SA V TRI
12:50 – 13:06: Pool A Match 2 CAN V BRB
13:12 – 13:28: Pool D Match 2 AUS V UGA
13:34 – 13:50: Pool D Match 3 ENG V SRI
13:56 – 14:12: Pool A Match 3 NZ V SCO
14:18 – 14:34: Pool C Match 3 PNG V MAS
14:40 – 14:56: Pool B Match 3 CKI V TRI
18:02 – 18:18: Pool A Match 4 SCO V BRB
18:24 – 18:40: Pool D Match 4 ENG V UGA
18:46 – 19:02: Pool C Match 4 WAL V PNG
19:08 – 19:24: Pool C Match 5 SAM V MAS
19:30 – 19:46: Pool B Match 4 SA V CKI
19:52 – 20:08: Pool B Match 5 KEN V TRI
20:20 – 20:36: Pool A Match 5 NZ V BRB
20:42 – 20:58: Pool D Match 5 SRI V UGA
21:04 – 21:20: Pool A Match 6 CAN V SCO
21:26 – 21:42: Pool C Match 6 SAM V WAL
21:48 – 22:04: Pool D Match 6 ENG V AUS
22:10 – 22:26: Pool B Match 6 SA V KEN