This weekend's Hong Kong Sevens will give us a good indication of whether the New Zealand team are on track for Olympic gold at Rio.

Hong Kong is a three-day tournament - the rest on the World Series are two days - which replicates what they will face in Rio.

Knowing coach Gordon Tietjens, he will be using it as a dry run. The main difference, though, is defeat in Hong Kong won't be nearly as serious as the consequences of losing in Rio.

I feel as good about New Zealand's chances of claiming gold in Rio as I can be. After a slow start and a large number of injuries, the team have found some form and will only get better when the squad is strengthened with the return of the Ioane brothers and Ardie Savea.


Experience is an important factor in most sport but it's probably less significant in sevens. Fourteen minutes can go in a flash and a couple of mistakes can be very costly but you need youth in sevens. You need players who are willing to try things and aren't scared if they don't come off. That's where the Ioane brothers are so potent.

It's also why Sonny Bill Williams will be such an asset. Talking to people around the New Zealand side, he seems to have learned the game well and should be ready by the time Rio rolls around.

What we saw from him in Wellington earlier in the year was significant. He might have made a costly mistake with an offload but was still prepared to try it again and it came off in spectacular fashion.

Players who can offload are so effective because they often draw in a couple of defenders and that creates space somewhere else.

The game of sevens has changed dramatically from my day. Back then, we almost played like touch. We would keep the ball alive and put the ball back in the pocket. Now players look for contact and quick ball from the breakdown.

The game is so physical now. Even second-tier teams have players capable of competing physically. The difference is the skill level and rugby nous.

There has been some talk about the small number of All Blacks who made themselves available for the sevens programme. There's no doubt players like Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith could have made a difference but for Cruden and Barrett, they've been waiting so long for a crack at the All Blacks' No 10 jersey. You can hardly blame them for chasing that goal.

Glen Osborne said recently he would have chosen the All Blacks over the chance of Olympic gold. I'm not sure I could have resisted the chance to go to an Olympics (I played at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games) but that just shows we're all different.

It's not as easy to transition to from XVs to sevens as some might think. Some people might say it's like riding a bike but guys like Liam Messam will tell you it's a lot more difficult than that and he and Sonny are only now getting up to speed.

New Zealand definitely still have the arsenal to win Olympic gold, but so do the likes of Australia, England and Fiji and so many teams have closed the gap. There's still a long time to go before the Games and there are bound to be some injuries to key players so depth will be critical.