Rugby: Easier path for All Blacks Sevens

By Campbell Burnes

DJ Forbes will captain the All Blacks Sevens. Photo / Getty
DJ Forbes will captain the All Blacks Sevens. Photo / Getty

In theory, the All Blacks Sevens should have an easier pathway through to the Cup semifinals when they play the fifth leg of the World Series starting in Las Vegas tomorrow.

In most of the four tournaments thus far, they have had the misfortune to strike either South Africa or Fiji, two of the series frontrunners, in the early playoffs.

But they have every chance of topping Pool C, with Kenya, Russia and Argentina on the menu. Emerge from that, as they should, as one of the top two, and they will likely face either England or USA or Samoa, all winnable quarter-finals on day two.

The Las Vegas tournament is structured like the Olympics, with two games on each day, which should make it easier on the body. It will be warm in Vegas, but surely nothing like the high temperatures and humidity of Sydney, where they placed a creditable third.

DJ Forbes will assume the captaincy armband again after regular skipper Scott Curry was ruled out with what was said to be a minor concussion. It is hoped Curry will be ready for the Vancouver leg on March 11-12.

That means Ambrose Curtis will be 13th man and Tasman's Tone Ng Shiu, whom the Herald revealed was very close to playing for Samoa in January, comes into the 12 for his second tournament.

New Zealand will be seeking more consistency during each of the 14-minute games. At times, they have played some sweet attacking sevens, but they have tended to button off at key moments in some of the big matches.

"We have a tough pool. There are a variety of styles that we will be playing against. We are looking forward to playing Argentina again, after the disappointing loss to them in Wellington. We didn't put in a performance we were proud of, so this is a chance for the team to step up and play the way we should be playing," says coach Scott Waldrom.

New Zealand are fourth on the standings, trailing third-placed Fiji by eight points.

The Black Ferns Sevens, who play the third leg of their World Series in Vegas, have lost Kat Whata-Simpkins to a hamstring injury, meaning the experienced Renee Wickliffe is promoted. Cheyelle Robins-Reti wins her debut.

"We've got a tough pool, so it will be a hard day. We have to beat the best if we want to be the best," says captain Sarah Goss. "But we've got a lot of confidence going into this tournament. Chey is making her debut and hopefully she can bring out some awesome moves. She's a playmaker and pretty smart as well. Being in the middle and being able to work beside her will be pretty cool."

New Zealand lead the standings by four points from Australia.

All Blacks Sevens: DJ Forbes (c), Dylan Collier, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Trael Joass, Andrew Knewstubb, Vilimoni Koroi, Tim Mikkelson, Sione Molia, Tone Ng Shi, Sherwin Stowers, Isaac Te Tamaki, Beaudein Waaka; 13th man: Ambrose Curtis

All Blacks Sevens in Pool C tomorrow (NZT):
2.15pm v Kenya
5.14pm v Russia

Pool C on Sunday (NZT):
11.36am v Argentina

Black Ferns Sevens: Sarah Goss (c), Michaela Blyde, Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Alena Saili, Terina Te Tamaki, Ruby Tui, Niall Williams, Portia Woodman, Renee Wickliffe; 13th woman: Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga

Black Ferns Sevens in Pool C tomorrow (NZT):

6:45am v Brazil
9:30am v England
12.15pm v Australia

- NZ Herald

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