The title would appear to be wide open at the Wanganui Club Sevens tomorrow afternoon with new youth teams and a couple of favourite clubs splitting their squads at the Kaierau Country Club.
For the first time since WRFU sevens became a regular club tournament in 2014, the matches will not be played at Marton Park, making use of Kaierau's two fields as nine teams representing seven entities take part.
The defending champions are Taihape, although they entered two squads last year with their No 2 team finally claiming the prize – after previously playing three unsuccessful finals as well as a semifinal which was lost in extra time.
WRFU club development officer Paul Kenny said a wedding this weekend meant Taihape only had enough players available for one squad this time.
However, home team Kaierau will again enter two teams, who came third and fourth respectively at last year's tournament, and will be hoping to win the club's third sevens championship on their home ground.
Kaierau Gold and Maroon are both seeded second on each of the pools.
Top seed for Pool 2 are Ngamatapouri Green, as for the first time the sevens specialists will enter two teams in the tournament.
As a single team guided by their flying Fijian players, Ngamatapouri have made the final in all four tournaments which have been held since the club was created in 2015, winning the title twice.
This year, they will also have a Ngamatapouri Black side, who are seeded at the bottom of Pool 1.
Entering the sevens format for the first time is Metro, the WRFU's Metropolitan subunion team, which is raised from local school leavers to compete in the Manawatu Colts division – a grade for Under 23's with weight restrictions.
In the four years of their existence, Metro has made the Colts playoffs every year, winning the title in 2018, including the completely new squad for 2019 being eliminated in the semifinals.
The other youth team joining the tournament will be the Feilding High School side, who will play three games in Pool 2 but are not eligible to enter the playoffs.
The school team is preparing for the upcoming Condor Sevens, being held at Kings College on November 28-29, and Kenny said Feilding High had requested to take part to give their squad some game time.
Marist will be entering one side, believed to be made up predominantly of players from the Celtic team, which competes in the Senior competition, while also qualifying for the new-look Division 2 earlier this year.
Pirates have continued their tradition of entering a team, meaning the only club missing from last year's tournament is Border.
There will also be two women's games played between a Metro White and Metro Black.
Kenny said they had originally intended to have three women's squads, but were struggling for numbers, with the teams being made up predominantly of players from the Wanganui Under 18 women's side, plus some older senior players.
Games kickoff at 10am, with the championship final scheduled for 1.40pm.
The Kaierau Rugby Club will have food and refreshments available, including an outside bar area for cash purchases only.
Pool 1 – 1. Taihape; 2. Kaierau Gold; 3. Marist; 4. Metro; 5. Ngamatapouri Black.
Pool 2 – 1. Ngamatapouri Green; 2. Kaierau Maroon; 3. Pirates; 4. Feilding High School.
Women: Metro White; Metro Black.
10am: Taihape vs Metro; Kaierau Gold vs Marist. 10.20am: Ngamatapouri Green vs Kaierau Maroon; Pirates vs Feilding High School. 10.40am: Marist vs Taihape; Metro vs Ngamatapouri Black. 11am: Metro White vs Metro Black (Women) ; 11.20am: Ngamatapouri Black vs Marist; Taihape vs Kaierau Gold. 11.40am: Feilding High School vs Kaierau Maroon; Ngamatapouri Green vs Pirates. 12pm: Kaierau Gold vs Ngamatapouri Black; Marist vs Metro. 12.20pm: Feilding High School vs Ngamatapouri Green; 12.20pm: Kaierau Maroon vs Pirates; 12.40pm: Metro vs Kaierau Gold; 12.40pm: Ngamatapouri Black vs Taihape. 1pm: Metro White vs Metro Black (Women); 1.20pm: Runners Up Pool 1 vs Runners Up Pool 2; 3rd Pool 1 vs 3rd Pool 2. 1.40pm: Final - Winners Pool 1 vs Winners Pool 2.
2017: Kaierau A.
2018: Taihape 2.