World Rugby’s Sevens Series resumes this weekend with Sydney hosting 16 teams in round four of the 10-leg tournament.
With less than a day to kick off, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, France and South Africa have all made changes to their squads ahead of the fourth round of the World Rugby Sevens Series in Sydney.
The action gets underway on Saturday with South Africa topping the standings after the last round in Wellington, New Zealand.
Canada and Scotland will also be hoping to build on impressive performances in Wellington while Fiji, who lost to South Africa in the final in Wellington, are still searching for their first tournament win this season.
Fiji captain Osea Kolinisau says his side have recovered well since last weekend: “There’s a lot of energy in the team and a lot of laughter around the camp. We’re really looking forward to this weekend.”
Meanwhile New Zealand will give debuts to Trael Joass and Andrew Knewstubb in Sydney this weekend.
Isaac Te Tamaki and Tone Ng Shiu will be the travelling reserves, with the rest of the team unchanged from the Wellington tournament last week.
New Zealand head coach Scott Waldrom said: “We learned a lot from Wellington and continue to work on what’s required to win in what has become a very tough World Series. Last weekend’s Fiji quarter-final showed us that if you make a few mistakes you will be punished by the opposition and we can’t afford that this weekend with another tough pool.
“Playing Australia first up in front of their home crowd is going to be a big challenge for the team.”
Australia head coach Andy Friend is expecting his youthful side to relish the opportunity of playing on home soil in Sydney.
“Those games when you know it’s your error that caused the loss, they are tough to take,” said Friend.
“It was my first tournament and we could have started on a better note with a win but I was really impressed with the attitude I saw with the boys and they still have the same hunger and desire to do well on the series.”
Australia’s performances on the 2016-17 series have been a mixed bag. In Dubai, they finished fifth after beating Scotland 19-12 and lost only one match across the weekend when Wales proved too strong for them in the Cup quarter-finals (21-12). In Cape Town, they lost 21-17 in the Challenge Trophy semi-final to Argentina, a disappointing result.
“We were really happy with Dubai, where we only lost one game,” he said. “Moving onto Cape Town, we had five debutants travelled from Dubai who were doing their first back-to-back tournaments and we came unstuck against USA and we dropped out of the quarters. We got ourselves into a shocking pool in Wellington and ended up coming 10th. We’re now in a solid pool again and we’re going to have to battle hard to come up with the goods.”
Wellington champions South Africa’s coach Neil Powell is committed to the cause and so far this series his time at the helm is paying off. From three tournaments, South Africa have two titles in Dubai and Wellington, and missed out on a third in Cape Town by losing 19-17 to England in the final. Powell insists despite their incredible form they aren’t looking too far into the future.
“Everybody is talking about the series and our chances of winning it already, but the key for us is to keep focusing on the next tournament,” he said.
“I think it’s key for the guys to keep their feet on the ground and for us as a management team. There are still seven tournaments left and consistency is key. As long as we can stay in the Cup competition all the time, then it will be a good series for us.”
Pools for Sydney 7s:
Pool A: South Africa, England, Kenya, Japan
Pool B: Fiji, France, Wales, Samoa
Pool C: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea
Pool D: Canada, Argentina, USA, Russia
Day One, schedule – Saturday, February 4
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus 11 hours)
Argentina v USA – 09:30
Canada v Russia – 09:52
France v Wales – 10:14
Fiji v Samoa – 10:36
England v Kenya – 10:58
South Africa v Japan – 11:20
New Zealand v Australia – 11:42
Scotland v Papua New Guinea – 12:04
Argentina v Russia – 12:36
Canada v USA – 12:58
France v Samoa – 13:20
Fiji v Wales – 13:42
England v Japan – 14:53
South Africa v Kenya – 15:15
New Zealand v Papua New Guinea – 15:37
Scotland v Australia – 15:59
USA v Russia – 18:23
Canada v Argentina – 18:45
Wales v Samoa – 19:07
Fiji v France – 19:29
Kenya v Japan – 19:51
South Africa v England – 20:13
Australia v Papua New Guinea – 20:35
Scotland v New Zealand – 20:57
Standings after three rounds:
1 South Africa 63
2 Fiji 51
3 England 49
4 Scotland 44
5 New Zealand 39
6 Wales 30
7 France 28
8 Australia 25
9 Argentina 25
10 Kenya 25
11 USA 23
12 Canada 21
13 Samoa 11
14 Russia 8
15 Uganda 4
16 Japan 3
17 Papua New Guinea 1
With thanks to World Rugby