‘Sun is shining, weather is fine’ goes the song. And if there was a sport that is suited to playing a game in the sunshine, it is the sport of Rugby Sevens. A sport that; if you might consider, has had a ‘breakout 12 months’. An Olympic appearance and growing participation around the globe–this see’s sevens rugby ready to put smiles on people’s faces, and to promote the ball this Summer.
And that begins on January 14 in Rotorua, New Zealand. The Bayleys National Sevens tournament will be run over two days at the Rotorua International Stadium, where Last Word On Rugby Senior Editor Scott Hornell will be present. Pen and paper; and sunscreen in hand, LWOR aims to cover all the results and speak with the players and coaches, that will all have sevens rugby ready and waiting to entertain the expected crowd.
Sevens Rugby Ready to ‘Promote the Ball’
On Saturday, 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s team will face off. The battle for provinal supremacy is healthy competition in a sport where the top-tier players are now on full time contracts. Women’s ‘Black Fern Sevens’ team captain Sarah Goss will bring her champion Manawatu side along to defend their title.
Pools for Bayleys National Sevens
Pool A: Waikato, Hawkes Bay, North Harbour, Southland
Pool B: Northland, Counties Manukau, Manawatu, South Canterbury
Pool C: Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Tasman, Canterbury
Pool D: Wellington, Auckland, Otago, Horowhenua Kapiti
Pool A: Manawatu, Waikato, Otago, North Harbour
Pool B: Wellington, Bay of Plenty, Auckland, Hawkes Bay
Pool C: Counties Manukau, Canterbury, Tasman, Taranaki
Over Day One, teams will aim to get a good start–in a knockout competition, only the top sides will challenge for the national title. From each pool, the top two sides progress to the Cup semifinals. In the women’s draw, the best third-placed and next best third-placed teams progress. So the critical factor for all participating sides is ‘a good start.’
LWOR look forward to watching some great action, as the best sides all aim to carry away the top prizes in 2017.
— Bayleys National 7's (@NationalSevens) January 17, 2016
NZ Rugby Again Promote RugbySmart Program
As well as the sunscreen and hydration, NZ Rugby will be promoting both fair play and the RugbySmart program. Running alongside the play on the field, the off field attention is on all the right conditions being provided by teams and the organisers, to get the best out of their players.
That is an important element, so the focus on creating positive practices all go toward making the sevens game safer and in reducing injuries–this is where principal sponsor ACC (the Accident Compensation Corporation) has a vested interest. For the National Sevens, ACC is teaming up with All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder and Olympic Silver medalist, and key member of the Manawatu Women’s team, Sarah Goss to promote staying injury free at the 2017 tournament.
ACC Sports Injury Prevention Manager Isaac Carlson said, Sarah and Nehe are fantastic role models; “they are helping us to encourage people to prepare well before they play and learning the skills they need to reduce injuries in sport.
“ACC SportSmart and Rugby Smart are evidence based programs that help players reach their potential and stay injury free over a lifetime of sport.”
They will have a tent and promote good practice among every team, and ideally all players. For Milner-Skudder, the World Cup winning winger is to finally take to the field in the Brisbane Global Ten’s. He will surely be wanting his Wellington teams to perform, so expect his attention to be on RugbySmart (with an eye on the Black and Yellow teams).
Rugby Sevens Ready To Promote the Ball
Aside from the support structure, the entertainment, merchandise and food on offer, you cannot go past the game. Sevens is fast–seven minute halves, 14 minute games. Fast action, and the perfect game to enjoy on a sunny day.
The teams will each play three times over Day One, with play on the main field and a second field to allow for all 42 games. The morning begins at 10.25 with Waikato v Southland (Men) on field one, so expect the quality of rugby to be first-class right from the get-go.
Teams to watch will include the former; Waikato. While Counties-Manukau will enter the tournament as title holders, they are without last years hero Augustine Pulu. Not to say they are without talent, but the young side will need to be in full-control to pass teams like Auckland, Canterbury and other enthusiastic teams. Every one of the 16 teams will be motivated to aim for a high finish.
The same must be said for the women. And they must all be aiming to dethrone Manawatu. A strong Auckland team will have Niall Williams and Theresa Fitzpatrick searching for a title. That is not to say that the local Bay of Plenty women or men cannot play well in front of a home crowd.
All of the teams are blessed with talent, and LWOR will be watching closely for the next wave of sevens stars to emerge.
Last Word On Rugby up-to-date Reporting
It will be an excellent two days, so watch out for updates on all our social media platforms: @LWOSSouth and our LWOS Rugby Union facebook page. A full Day One wrap will be up on Saturday night, before the tournament outcome is known by 5:30pm Sunday night.
This will not only be the New Zealand (NZ) national title for men and women, but a preparation for upcoming HSBC Sevens Series rounds. The Wellington Sevens are on the weekend of January 28-29, followed closely by the Sydney Sevens the next weekend. Two full rounds of the series for the men, as the women contest Sydney only.
NZ Men Out To Improve At Home
When the Wellington event rolls around, the NZ men’s team will need to operating a 100%. While entering the competition as reigning champions, they are yet to impress since the 2016/17 series began. A correlation with new coaching direction, but it is a key step–with the home crowds support, to play to that and use that energy to go far at the Wellington Sevens.
The next weekend, the women will then be asked to perform. Easier for them, as they were victorious at the Dubai Sevens. Wanting to carry that momentum in, the women will use every opportunity in Rotorua, for all playing team members to gain form. There is no better way to prepare then a high-tempo match (practice is good, but it is just simulation). The ‘Sevens Sisters’ will be much better off, after the Bayleys National Sevens event.
“Main photo credit”