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Sixteen captains lined up at the iconic Tūrangawaewae Marae, ahead of the HSBC New Zealand Sevens, which kicks off this weekend at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series has delivered scintillating action from the opening two rounds in Dubai and Cape Town.
Heading into Hamilton, USA sit top of the standings for the first time and are closely followed by Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 champions New Zealand and Olympic gold medallists Fiji in third.
The competition kicks off at 10:00 local time (GMT+13) on Saturday, 26 January when Scotland take on France before the other Pool C match sees series champions South Africa, who placed fourth in Dubai, face Kenya.
Next up will be the Pool B matches involving England, Samoa, Dubai and Cape Town runners-up USA and invitational side Tonga.
Australia, who took home bronze in Hamilton last year, will face Argentina in Pool A followed by reigning HSBC New Zealand Sevens champions Fiji taking on Wales.
Pool D features hosts New Zealand, who open their weekend against Japan, alongside Spain and Canada
New Zealand captain Tim Mikkelson said “It’s good to be back and be back training with the boys and especially in Hamilton, where I’m from. To play in front of the home crowd is something I’m really looking forward to.
“The boys have played extremely well. In Dubai they had a lot of injuries and they didn’t complain about it, they just kept on moving forward and got the job done. Watching them in Cape Town they did the same thing. It was pretty inspirational and it's awesome to be back a part of it.
“We’ve got Japan first up and we really just want to start well in that first half. There is a lot of pressure playing here in front of our home fans, but we really want to do a good job at home and our families”.
Also speaking at the captains’ launch, South Africa captain Philip Snyman added “We definitely have not had the best of starts this season, but I think the more our team play together and the more time they spend together the guys will gel.
“After losing a couple of players we realised we can’t just pitch up for matches and we can’t rely on certain players to do the magic, we need to fire as a unit and to play together as a team. We have learned some valuable lessons.”
“There are some really exciting youngsters coming through and I’m looking forward to this upcoming weekend, said Snyman.
SOURCE; WORLD RUGBY/PACNEWS
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