Kiwis to stretch Sevens lead?

2012-02-10 07:21

Los Angeles - New Zealand will try stretch their lead atop the IRB Sevens World Series when the circuit shifts to Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday morning (SA time) for the fifth of nine events.

New Zealand scorched arch-rivals Fiji with 24 unanswered points in five minutes for a 24-7 victory in the final of the fourth leg at Wellington last weekend.

The victory gave New Zealand the lead in the series with 73 points, with Fiji second on 70. The two had gone into the Wellington Sevens as co-leaders on 51 points.

England arrive in Vegas lying third on 64 points, followed by South Africa on 61 and France on 49.

South Africa, defending the Las Vegas title they won last year, will be without Paul Delport, who injured his cheekbone in the Plate Final victory over Tonga in Wellington.

South Africa Sevens coach Paul Treu has picked Renfred Dazel to replace Delport.

As Wellington champions, New Zealand will head Pool A at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

They face a tough trio of matches against former Series champions Samoa, trans-Tasman rivals Australia and Japan.

Fiji, whose appearance in the Wellington final was their second of the series, head pool B and will play Canada, Argentina and the United States.

France were drawn top of Pool C, which also includes South Africa, Wales and South American qualifiers, Uruguay.

Kenya headed the draw in Pool D, which also includes England, Scotland and Brazil.

Pool matches will start on Friday and the finals will be on Sunday, a change from the previous two-day format.

The Las Vegas Sevens will be the first event since the announcement that series will expand next season as it builds up to the sport's inclusion at the Olympic Games in 2016.

The number of teams that will take part in each event in the World Series will increase for 2012-13 from the so-called 12 "core" sides to 15, the International Rugby Board (IRB) said.

The Hong Kong Sevens, from March 23 to 25, will double up as a qualification tournament to determine which will be the three new teams competing in all events in the 2012-13 series.

Treu welcomed the move, saying it would attract new fans and force the current core countries to improve.

"I think it is fantastic news for Sevens Rugby," Treu said. "The sport is growing at a tremendous pace across the globe, attracting new fans and participants to the game.

"What it means for us is that we will have to continue to attract and recruit new players to strengthen our core squad, because other countries will fund Sevens Rugby on a larger scale because of the prospect of series titles and Olympic participation."