Commonwealth Games: Sevens set for big kick-off
October 10, 2010
Hosea Gear is one of four All Blacks summoned by New Zealand to defend their Commonwealth rugby sevens crown © Getty Images
New Zealand begin the defence of their Commonwealth Games title on Monday with their determination to retain the title underlined by the presence of four All Blacks within their squad.
Coach Gordon Tietjens has named All Blacks Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Ben Smith and Liam Messam in his squad with the other eight spots filled by players from this season's IRB Sevens World Series, including experienced skipper DJ Forbes.
New Zealand picked up gold in Melbourne four years ago - continuing their dominance of the competition since the sport's first appearance at Kuala Lumpur in 1998 - and their hopes of retaining the title are further enhanced by a favourable draw.
The reigning champions begin their campaign against Canada in the third game at the 10,000-seater Delhi University stadium on Monday morning. Fixtures against Scotland and Guyana follow in Pool A before they will surely take their place in the quarter-finals, which begin on Tuesday.
New Zealand's stiffest competition for gold promises to come from reigning IRB Sevens World Series champions Samoa, who will no doubt rely on the lightning-quick IRB sevens player of the year Mikaele Pesamino. However, they will be without the experienced Uale Mai.
Sevens star and veteran Ben Gollings will once again lead England's challenge for the gold medal with coach Ben Ryan assembling an experienced squad to finally bring an end to New Zealand's run. Gollings is joined by six of his team-mates - Greg Barden, Kevin Barrett, Chris Cracknell, Dan Norton, James Rodwell and Fijian-born Isoa Damudamu - who helped England clinch the Wellington and London Sevens titles in 2009.
Ryan's team will have to negotiate Pool D, which includes Australia, Sri Lanka and Uganda. Sri Lanka are first up for the English before taking on Uganda and a potentially crucial showdown with Australia, who are bolstered by the presence of speedsters Lachie Turner and Nick Cummins.
South Africa open the competition against Tonga but they have been set a challenging route to the finals with Wales joining them in Pool B alongside India. The hosts will have an early opportunity to make an impact and get the home crowds cheering as they face Wales in the second game of the day.
The absence of Fiji, due to a suspension from the Commonwealth on the grounds of a military coup staged in the country in 2006, is the only note of disappointment ahead of what promises to be a cracking competition.
Pool A: New Zealand, Canada, Scotland, Guyana
Pool B: South Africa, Wales, Tonga, India
Pool C: Samoa, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia
Pool D: England, Australia, Uganda, Sri Lanka
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