Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Wellington sevens: What you need to know

The New Zealand team on their float on Lambton Quay during the Hertz Sevens parade. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
The New Zealand team on their float on Lambton Quay during the Hertz Sevens parade. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Everybody knows the Wellington sevens is one of the parties of the year - but what about the action on the field? APNZ's Daniel Richardson takes a look at this weekend's two-day event.

What is it?

The Wellington sevens are the fourth stop on the world series, which is made up of nine legs played around the world. New Zealand, which won the last two world series, leads this year's instalment with 60 points after three legs. France is second on 46 and Fiji third on 44.

This weekend's tournament features four pools of four teams. The top two sides from each pool move through to the quarter-finals - the rest of the teams contest the shield, plate and bowl - with the finals to be played on Saturday.

What happened last time?

There were a few arrests and crimes against fashion and many of the punters probably can't remember who won.

To refresh, New Zealand won for the second year running (they were beaten finalists in 2009) and victory this year would give them their second three-peat at the venue after they recorded a hat-trick of wins between 2003-2005.

Who are the contenders?

Gordon Tietjens' side are the obvious favourites and the bookies have them at $1.70 to take out the tournament. They always find another gear in Wellington, although the Pacific Island teams, particularly Samoa and Fiji, have impressive records in the capital. The jokers in the pack are the French, which are second on the series standings, although they are yet to win a tournament this season. France are paying $20 at the bookmakers.

Why should people care?

It's all about the Olympics now. Sure, sevens is played at the Commonwealth Games but the sport is set to debut at the world's biggest sporting event at Rio in 2016, which has given it relevance. Plenty of countries are pouring big money into developing their teams and could challenge New Zealand's dominance at the top of the tree.

The tournament also has a habit of providing a platform for New Zealand players to make a name for themselves. Victor Vito did it in 2008, Declan O'Donnell enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame when he scored a treble in the final in 2011 and Tanerau Latimer shot to prominence when he played as a 17-year-old schoolboy in 2004.

What happens at the tournament?

Plenty of tries, sun (hopefully) and alcohol. Like it or not, sevens is as much about the party off the field as it is the action on it and it's a big reason why tickets to the event often sell out in minutes. Kenya has become a crowd favourite in recent years with their rhythmic warm-ups, while there's always an underdog who produces an upset. If there's one game fans actually watch, it's Saturday's final (especially if New Zealand are playing) and it's impressive when the crowd find their voice.


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