The Men's Sevens series hits Sydney this weekend and in contrast to Wellington, the city is coloured up and the stadium is all but sold out for the Men’s two-day competition.
The results from Wellington have thrown up some interesting scenarios for this week’s Round Four outing.
The Canadians and the Scots have laid down their strong intentions for the series moving forward; and it’s hard to decide if South Africa is just that good or if Fiji, New Zealand and England are all just ironing out a few kinks before putting some consistency in performance on the field.
There are no easy pools in this round with each offering its own enticing set of scenarios to whet the appetite for some surprise outcomes.
Will Australia have a breakout first day in front of a raucous home crowd defying the odds against youth and inexperience?
Will Canada prove that it has turned a corner and that the Wellington result was not an anomaly?
Can Scotland take the next step up the ladder and be one of the final two combatants on Sunday?
Can any team rattle the seemingly unflappable Blitzboks?
South Africa, England, Kenya, Japan
This will be Seabelo Senatla’s final outing with the Blitzboks before he leaves to fulfil his Super Rugby commitments. He won Impact Player of the Tournament and Player of the Final in Wellington so you can expect he will want to finish his sevens stint with a bang and not a whimper. It’s hard to look past them on current form.
Kenya always has the ability to surprise on any given match day and veteran star player Collins Injera loves a big crowd, so England may have its work cut out to get to the quarter finals on Sunday.
Fiji, France, Wales, Samoa
Fiji performed well in Wellington under new coach Gareth Baber – its only two losses were to South Africa in the group stage and the Cup Final.
Fiji is on a mission in Sydney to go all the way this time.
It will be up to France, Wales and Samoa to shake up the Fijians – each of which has that capability - but it will most likely be a battle on day one for the second pool position heading into the quarter finals.
Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, PNG
This group has all the hallmarks of a fight to the death in any of the Pool matchups involving the first three. Scotland is on a high after an emphatic start to the season, while the Kiwis can’t quite seem to find their rhythm.
Scotland captain Scott Riddell believes it’s the hard work and having a consistent squad which has led to the successful start to the season and in turn built the team’s confidence.
He admits to being excited for the big crowd expected in Sydney after the disappointing turnout in Wellington.
“Sydney is looking like a cracker – I played last year and the atmosphere was incredible. They (crowd) were not just getting behind Australia, but getting behind both teams as well which makes it a really positive experience for the players and they’ll definitely lift their game for a big crowd,” he said.
With Australia selecting another three debutants, the challenge to finish top two is a big one for the home-crowd favourite – but in sevens anything can happen.
This is Papua New Guinea’s last tournament in the main group but the experience will serve it well ahead of the Hong Kong 7s invitational in April where the Pukpuks will try to qualify for the prized core group spot next season.
Canada, Argentina, USA, Russia
Canada is riding high after last weekend’s fourth place finish.
The team seems to have finally settled under new coach Damian McGrath.
Captain Harry Jones believes that the time spent in heavy training over the break has served the team well.
“It’s been (about) getting used to Damien and his coaching style. Going into Dubai and Cape Town we’d only been with him for a month and we didn’t get a good quality amount of time in training with him, but it’s starting to show that he’s having a really good influence on the team,” said Jones.
Argentina is the other strong contender having finished fifth in Wellington, defeating New Zealand in the play-off..
The USA is still battling to find out why the results are not coming, especially on Day Two.
Play kicks off at 9.30am (AEDT) on Saturday with the first game of the day pitting USA and Argentina against one another at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
Australia will play New Zealand in their first pool match at 11.42am (AEDT).