IRB Sevens World Series
Sevens giants gearing up for kick-off
December 2, 2010
Samoa claim the 2009/10 World Sevens Series title © Getty Images
The IRB Sevens World Series kicks off in Dubai this weekend with New Zealand looking to end two years of hurt with a return to winning ways.
The Kiwis are fresh from winning a fourth straight Commonwealth Games gold medal but have not tasted World Series glory since 2008 - with South Africa and Samoa usurping them from a throne that had been theirs eight times in the preceding nine seasons.
Gordon Tietjens has named a new-look squad, including debutants Declan O'Donnell, Scott Curry, Bryce Heem, Frank Halai, Jackson Ormond and Jack McPhee, while Chiefs flanker Scott Waldrom returns to the Sevens arena for the first time since 2007.
"It's been a long time between drinks and I do look for perfection, and that means going out and winning another World Series," Tietjens said. "We've won eight but haven't won it the last two years - we were second last year and fourth the year before, but Sevens has got a lot closer.
"Our objective for the last year was, first and foremost, to win that (Commonwealth) gold medal, that was right up at the top and then the World Series. This year it's just the World Series so I can tell you that New Zealand will be doing their utmost to go out and win that Series."
Samoa kick off the defence of their title in a competitive group alongside Kenya, Wales and the Arabian Gulf but will be confident of booking a quarter-final spot with the minimum of fuss.
The Islanders are likely to face renewed challenges from Australia and South Africa this season, with the Aussies particularly impressive in booking their place in the final of the Commonwealth Games. They have been paired with the Blitz Boks in the Pool stages in Dubai, with Scotland and Russia set for a tough start to the season.
Fiji were banned from Commonwealth action and will duly be baying for the new season to start. Their big kick off throws up a heavyweight showdown against Ben Ryan's England, who will want to put in a more consistent shift this season. They are joined in Pool D by France and Portugal.
Ryan Believes that a good start from England in Dubai could see them challenging throughout the year. "It would make a huge change in our psyche," he said. "The guys are right on the tipping point, they are almost there, but as with most teams it is only until you take out a tournament that that belief becomes a reality.
"We are probably fourth or fifth favourites here and, although I am dumbing down our chances, there are other teams who have better records than us. Although we start there, we certainly don't want to finish there."
Dubai Sevens Pools:
Pool A: Samoa, Kenya, Wales, Arabian Gulf
IRB Sevens World Series Schedule:
Dubai: 3-4 Dec 2010
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