Daniel Richardson

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

Sevens: NZ eye ranking rise

Auckland teenager Akira Ioane is the new face in the New Zealand squad for the Wellington Sevens. Photo / Getty
Auckland teenager Akira Ioane is the new face in the New Zealand squad for the Wellington Sevens. Photo / Getty

The New Zealand sevens side need to win this week's tournament in Wellington for more than just the purpose of keeping the fans happy.

The Kiwis didn't even make the final in the capital last year but they enter this season's two-day tournament, which gets underway at Westpac Stadium on Friday, trailing South Africa by one point on the overall standings of the international circuit.

Wellington marks the fifth stop on the nine-leg global odyssey and with a vast majority of the Wellington crowd backing Gordon Tietjens' side, it seems like the ideal time to reclaim their lead at the top of the tree.

The schedule has been given a shake up this year and rather than having an impending trip to Las Vegas on their minds, New Zealand played stateside two weeks ago, where South Africa beat the Kiwis 14-7 in the final.

South Africa's victory allowed them to leapfrog New Zealand on the ladder and both sides have been notably consistent this season.

New Zealand skipper DJ Forbes said they had to temper their excitement in front of the home crowd this week.

"It's just one game at a time. We've got a pretty tough pool,'' Forbes said. "If we can do all the little things right on day one, that'll set us up, hopefully, for a good day two.''

New Zealand open their tournament against Fiji at 3.06pm on Friday before going on to meet Spain then France, with the finals to be played on Saturday.

It's a tough group for the home side, but given Fiji flamed out in Las Vegas it meant they went in to the hat for the draw.

In selection news, Auckland teenager Akira Ioane is the new face in Tietjens' squad, while Ben Lam, Tomasi Cama and Sherwin Stowers all come in after not playing in Las Vegas.

Canterbury's Mark Jackman and Northland's Matt Moulds have dropped out of New Zealand's initial 14-man squad.

New Zealand squad: Tomasi Cama, Scott Curry, Ambrose Curtis, DJ Forbes (c), Bryce Heem, Gillies Kaka, Akira Ioane, Ben Lam, Tim Mikkelson, Lote Raikabula, Sherwin Stowers, George Tilsley.

- APNZ

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