Wellington Sevens: What you need to know

By Matiu Workman

A win in Wellington would see the hosts return to the top of the series standings with four events remaining. Photo / Getty Images
A win in Wellington would see the hosts return to the top of the series standings with four events remaining. Photo / Getty Images

Splashes of sun, sprinkles of sombreros and several renditions of "Sweet Caroline" will feature in one of the biggest weekends on the Sevens World Series circuit in Wellington starting on Friday.

The fifth of nine legs, the Wellington Sevens is regarded as one of the premier sporting events in New Zealand and it is as famous for its colourful costumes and carnival atmosphere as it is for the on-field action.

Westpac Stadium has held the event every year since 2000 and its positioning next to Wellington's train station makes it an easy venue for fans based outside of the capital city. After all, when else are train travellers able to share a seat with Elvis Presley, Optimus Prime or Hulk Hogan.

For rugby purists, the Wellington tournament features a number of tantalising match-ups as the sport's inclusion in the 2016 Olympics gathers pace.

- Series leaders South Africa (78 points) hold a one-point lead over New Zealand in the standings. Neil Powell's side have scored consecutive tournament victories ahead of the New Zealand leg.

- The Blitzbokke's biggest challenge in Pool A will come from an improving England side. The defending Wellington Sevens champions sit in fourth with 53 points. They aim to become the second team to register consecutive tournament wins in Wellington.

- New Zealand have made three of the four finals in the 2013-14 series highlighted by winning the series-opening Gold Coast leg. A win in Wellington would see the hosts return to the top of the series standings with four events remaining. Sir Gordon Tietjens' side has won six of the 13 previous editions in the capital.

- They do battle in Pool B with Pacific Islands rivals Fiji, who lie third with 56 points from four matches. Ben Ryan's side won the Dubai Sevens but were left to rue a disappointing display in Las Vegas, where they picked up just eight points from the tournament.

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Action gets underway on Friday with the tournament opener between Canada and Scotland at 1pm.

New Zealand gets its Wellington campaign underway against Fiji at 3.06pm before tackling Spain at 5.54pm and closing the day's play against France at 9.56pm.

There will be plenty of matches to keep the fans happy between each New Zealand game. Tonga and Samoa will be looking to put on a show for the large expat communities in Wellington when they do battle in Pool D at 4.30pm, while Canada's battle against Argentina could decide the winner of Pool C at 8.50pm.

The cup final is scheduled to take place at 9.30pm on Saturday but not before the expected crowd of 32,500, costumes and all, are in full voice and ready to take the party well into the night.

The final pool standings will dictate which respective division they will participate in on Saturday. The top two teams will advance to the cup competition while the third and fourth-ranked teams will do battle for the bowl and plate competitions respectively.

Teams eliminated in the bowl quarter-finals still play on and have the chance to play for the Shield.

Wellington is forecasted to have a clear day on Friday and patches of rain on Saturday.

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