Rugby sevens: Overseas experience proves vital

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The Northland rugby sevens squad will need to be competitive at the Northern Region qualifiers in Hamilton next weekend if the team expect to qualify for a place in the annual Pub Charities Sevens, the national provincial championships which are being held for the first time in Rotorua in early January.

However, Northland manager Kyall Collins was feeling confident after the side won a tournament in Auckland late last month.

The Northland team dropped only one game at the event, losing 12-17 to North Harbour in pool play on the Saturday, before bouncing back to defeat the same side 34-10 in the final on Sunday. Northland also beat East Coast Bays 26-10, Marist 34-17 and North Shore 20-5 in pool play before downing Northcote 22-7 in the quarter-finals and Counties-Manukau 17-7 in the semifinals.

"It showed how much we improved over the weekend, but more importantly it showed how good our fitness levels were - five minutes into the final we could see that Harbour were physically spent and we had them cold," Collins said, adding that the side were showing the benefits of hard training and attending tournaments in Singapore and Fiji.

"That showed especially with how they dealt with sides that rush up on defence like we found in Fiji," he said.

"It would be a good opportunity to take a look at Auckland and figure out how to beat them ... Auckland are always tough, the team to beat but we're confident we can match them after we saw them in action at the Singapore tournament."

Last weekend, Northland also travelled to Waitemata to play friendly games against Auckland, Counties, Waikato and North Harbour ahead of the qualifiers at Waikato Stadium on December 14. There they will be up against Auckland, Harbour, Counties, Waikato, Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty and the Waikato Baabaas, with the top six of these eight teams qualifying for the nationals.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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