The HSBC Sevens Series welcomes the new year with the prestigious Wellington Sevens in New Zealand. Wellington used to be a sell-out event for years, but ticket sales have dropped a bit this year. However, the event organisers are confident that the tournament, staged at the impressive Westpac Stadium, won’t disappoint.
Pic: World Rugby
With World Series champions Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa all managed by new coaching set-ups, it will be interesting to see how those teams perform under new guidance. Papua New Guinea is the latest addition to the 16-squads tournament. The pacific island nation will replace Uganda, which participated at the first two stages in Dubai and South Africa.
WHERE AND WHEN?
The Wellington Sevens take place at the Westpac Stadium (Capacity 34,500) on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of January. The Westpac (also known as the Wellington Regional Stadium) hosted two quarterfinals during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and is the home of the Super Rugby franchise Hurricanes.
The matches kick-off on Saturday at 11:00 local time (22:00 UK time) and Sunday 11:00 local time (22:00 UK time).
See the full Day 1 fixture list below.
WHERE CAN I WATCH IT?
In the UK Sky Sports will cover the tournament on all days. For a full TV-guide click here, for any other country check out this handy guide.
WHO’S THE FAVOURITE?
After two rounds it’s currently a tight affair between South Africa and England who both won a tournament each. South Africa, two points ahead of England, only lost one match so far. Disappointingly, the only defeat the Blitzboks conceded was in the final of their home tournament in Cape Town last year. One team which certainly doesn’t want to disappoint anyone this weekend are hosts New Zealand. Under a new coaching setup, the Kiwis are ready to maintain their great home record. In the previous six years, New Zealand won the tournament five times.
ONE TO WATCH
So far, England’s Dan Norton has been the outstanding performer. The most tries, most tacklings and the most carries are all stats which the former Bristol-winger are leading. However, with New Zealand, being on home soil, expect the hosts to show off their skills. Tim Mikkelson, now entering his ninth year on the circuit, is still one of the very best and always a pleasure to watch.
THE POOLS & SCHEDULES
England, Kenya, Argentina, Papua New Guinea
South Africa, Fiji, Australia, Japan
New Zealand, USA, France, Samoa
Scotland, Wales, Russia, Canada
Day 1 | Fixtures
Saturday, January 28 (Kick-off is local time)
Wales v Russia, 11.00
Scotland v Canada, 11.23
Fiji v Australia, 11.46
South Africa v Japan, 12.20
Kenya v Argentina, 12.32
England v Papua New Guinea, 12.55
USA v France, 13.19
New Zealand v Samoa, 13.41
Wales v Canada, 14.24
Scotland v Russia, 14.47
Fiji v Japan, 15.33
South Africa v Australia, 15.33
Kenya v Papua New Guinea, 15.56
England v Argentina, 16.19
USA v Samoa, 16.42
New Zealand v France, 17.16
Scotland v Wales, 17.26
Russia v Canada, 18.00
Scotland v Wales, 18.26
South Africa v Fiji, 19.18
Argentina v Papua New Guinea, 19.44
England v Kenya, 20.10
France v Canada, 20.36
New Zealand v USA, 21.13