All Blacks eye RWC 7s title

2013-06-27 09:14
DJ Forbes (Gallo)

Moscow - New Zealand will be aiming to translate their world-beating form on the IRB sevens circuit into a title tilt at the June 28-30 Rugby World Cup Sevens, with one eye on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

The abbreviated sport of rugby sevens has received a massive boost after its inclusion as one of the new sports at the Rio Games, with newly-tapped Olympic funding increasing funding and player interest.

One of the reasons behind its inclusion is the unpredictability of the sport, with much closer competition between teams than in the 15-a-side game, albeit that the All Blacks have won 11 of the 14 IRB World Sevens Series titles.

Wales are the unlikely world sevens champions, winning the last Cup in Dubai in 2009 at startling odds of 80-1 after the four favourites fell by the wayside in four dramatic, breath-taking quarter-finals.

"It's in the back of our minds," admitted Wales coach Paul John, who has just playmaker Lee Williams remaining from his squad four years ago.

"We're trying to treat this as just another tournament, but the title defence is an added incentive that the boys are aware of, and as a World Cup it's a special occasion anyway."

Inspirational captain DJ Forbes will be back for the All Blacks, as one of three players in Gordon Tietjens' squad that also appeared in Dubai, alongside veteran Fiji-born Tomasi Cama and Lote Raikabula.

"We really want to do well as we haven't won the Cup since 2001," said Tietjens.

"This is also the last World Cup before the Olympics so Moscow is also going to be very valuable in terms of our planning to ensure we are in the best possible shape for Rio in 2016."

Twenty-four teams will contest the men's title, with Australia seeking to defend their title in a 16-strong women's competition.

With the wider spaces available to players, all eyes will be on Carlin Isles when the United States run out on to the paddock to play Georgia on Friday.

Isles became an internet sensation after scoring a raft of tries that showboated the speed that saw him ranked in the top 40 US 100-metres sprinters with a personal best time of 10.13 seconds.

"I stay humble and don't let it get to me," Isles said. "I try to keep it more about the team."

The Ohio native only switched to rugby last summer with an eye on the Olympics, and the IRB can only rub their hands at the likes of the might of sporting powerhouses the United States and Russia fixing their sights on sevens glory at the Rio Games.

Not only are the USA and the hosts playing alongside the traditional rugby powers, but there are the likes of Tunisia and the Philippines in the men's competition and Brazil and the Netherlands in the women's.

Brazil's women's captain Julia Albino Sarda said she and her teammates had a rare opportunity to promote a sport in a country where football rules.

"The game of rugby in Brazil is growing really well," she said. "Now young girls often see rugby on television and two years ago that would never have been the case.

"For us our focus is to grow and grow for 2016. A lot of our players will be able to get better funding after the World Cup to build towards that and that is important to us because we need to be together more and train more like the teams we are up against in this World Cup."

Read more on:    all blacks  |  sevens  |  rugby

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