Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 22 News List

Kiwis banking on experience, brawn for rugby sevens

AFP , WELLINGTON

A rejuvenated New Zealand are banking on experience and brawn to continue their winning streak when the third round of the world rugby sevens series starts today.

The reigning world champions are undefeated after two rounds and coach Gordon Tietjens is keen to reignite the momentum following an eight-week break since winning back-to-back tournaments in Dubai and South Africa.

"Wellington is a huge tournament for the fans as well as the team and that is why I have selected an experienced side," he said.

"We got our new campaign off to a winning start in December and the challenge is to continue that momentum in front of our home supporters," Tietjens said.

New Zealand have not won their home tournament since pulling off a hat-trick of wins from 2003-2005, with Fiji and Samoa winning in the past two years.

Samoa, who beat Fiji 17-14 in last year's final for their only win in the eight years of the sevens series, play New Zealand in the final pool A game tonight.

Tournament second seeds Fiji headline pool B, which also contains England, with South Africa and Australia the front runners in pool C and Argentina and Tonga in pool D.

The only change to the intimidating New Zealand side which won in Dubai and South Africa is the inclusion of Tafai Ioasa to bolster the forwards after missing the first two tournaments through injury.

Tietjens has plumped for size over pace and New Zealand captain DJ Forbes said they will make the most of it.

"We have still got some speedsters, but I think with New Zealand's sevens rugby, whenever we've been good in contact and in confrontation we've done well," he said.

Forward Steven Yates said New Zealand are sticking to the same formula which saw them pull off vital wins at London and Edinburgh last year to secure the 2006-2007 title.

"What we've noticed is that if our defense is going really well, and we're going forward there, other teams don't flow as well. We can get in and upset them, Yates said.

"At the moment that's probably our main focus and attack takes care of itself," he said.

New Zealand, averaging 31 tries per tournament, need only 21 more to become the first team to score 2,000 since the world sevens series began.

England's Ben Gollings needs only nine conversions to better the benchmark of 457 set by Fijian great Waisale Serevi.

Gollings is also in a battle with South African Fabian Juries for second place on the all-time try scoring list headed by Argentina's Santiago Gomez Cora with 177. Juries has 144 to 143 for Gollings.

Pools:

Pool A: New Zealand, Samoa, Canada, Papua New Guinea;

Pool B: Fiji, England, Wales, Cook Islands;

Pool C: South Africa, Kenya, Australia, France;

Pool D: Argentina, Scotland, United States, Tonga.

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