World Rugby’s Sevens Series resumes this weekend with Wellington hosting 16 teams in round three of the 10-leg tournament.
With South Africa leading the standings, competition is set to be fierce with the teams well rested after the December break.
England won the last round of the series, upsetting South Africa in Cape Town, with New Zealand claiming the bronze.
All Blacks Sevens captain Scott Curry knows his side will be under pressure to retain the trophy which they won in 2016.
“I’m always excited for Wellington as obviously it’s our only chance to play at home in front of family and friends,” he told World Rugby’s official website.
“We’ve had some pretty good wins here and won the last three in a row, so we’re hoping for a fourth.
“Obviously it’s a bit of an interesting time for us, with a changing of the guard in terms of the coaching and a bit of a fresh start for us as a team. We’re learning plenty of new stuff so hopefully we can improve on what we’ve done so far.”
England’s Tom Mitchell, still buoyant from his side’s win in Cape Town in December, said his side are ready for a tough weekend at the Westpac Stadium.
“It’s obviously a long break between Cape Town and Wellington so we tried to utilise that time to focus on the detail around attack and defence,” he explained.
“Now the guys are excited to try to put that out on the field and get some results here in Wellington.”
Although South Africa are top of the standings heading into Wellington, however the Blitzboks are still smarting from their 19-17 Cape Town final defeat at the hands of England in December.
But they’re not looking backwards and captain Philip Snyman is focused on the goals that he wants to achieve in 2017.
“We made it clear this year that we don’t want any excuses and that we want to win the series,” he explained.
“We played fantastic rugby in Dubai and in Cape Town but Wellington has always been difficult for us. But the guys are looking nice and sharp so hopefully if we can build on our momentum we’ll have a good week here.”
Australia, who host the next round of the series in Sydney, are hoping to improve on a poor finish in Cape Town and captain Sam Myers is ready for a tough pool, where his side face South Africa, Olympic champions Fiji and Japan.
“We had two weeks off (since Cape Town) but continued our own training programs. We’ve had a few new boys come into the squad so it’s been refreshing,” Myers
“We came fifth in Dubai and 12th in Cape Town and so I think the key to sevens is consistency. We’ve focused on improvement and I think we’re coming into this weekend quietly confident.”
Wales captain Sam Cross is also feeling positive ahead of the weekend in Wellington.
“We had a good quarter-final performance at the last round against South Africa and I think we were a bit unlucky there,” he said.
“We have a few new faces come into the group for Wellington and I think we have a good opportunity to win Pool D (against Scotland, Russia and Canada) and I think we have to set the stall high.”
Pools for Wellington 7s:
Pool A: England, Kenya, Argentina, Papua New Guinea
Pool B: South Africa, Fiji, Australia, Japan
Pool C: New Zealand, USA, France, Samoa
Pool D: Scotland, Wales, Russia, Canada
Day One, schedule – Saturday, January 28
(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus 13 hours)
Wales v Russia – 11:00
Scotland v Canada – 11:23
Fiji v Australia – 11:46
South Africa v Japan – 12:20
Kenya v Argentina – 12:32
England v Papua New Guinea – 12:55
USA v France – 13:19
New Zealand v Samoa – 13:41
Wales v Canada – 14:24
Scotland v Russia – 14:47
Fiji v Japan – 15:33
South Africa v Australia – 15:33
Kenya v Papua New Guinea – 15:56
England v Argentina – 16:19
USA v Samoa – 16:42
New Zealand v France – 17:16
Scotland v Wales – 17:26
Russia v Canada – 18:00
Scotland v Wales – 18:26
South Africa v Fiji – 19:18
Argentina v Papua New Guinea – 19:44
England v Kenya – 20:10
France v Canada – 20:36
New Zealand v USA – 21:13
Standings after two rounds:
1 South Africa 41
2 England 39
3 Fiji 32
4 Scotland 27
5 New Zealand 27
6 Wales 25
7 Australia 18
8 USA 18
9 France 18
10 Kenya 17
11 Argentina 12
12 Samoa 8
13 Canada 6
14 Russia 6
15 Uganda 4
16 Japan 2
With thanks to World Rugby