Kiwis wary of hungry Aussie Sevens sides

by Sam Phillips

As the Australian Men's Sevens side claimed their third straight preseason Cup title in San Jose on Monday, there were some very keen observers watching on in New Zealand.

Australia featured a near top strength squad at the Silicon Valley Sevens but the Kiwis took a different approach, sending the majority of their big guns to the Oceania Sevens this weekend instead.

New Zealand sent a development team to San Jose and as a result, Australia were hot favourites to claim their third straight Cup.

Andy Friend's side held up their end of the bargain and as they came from 12-0 down to beat the USA in the final, NZ Sevens skipper Scott Curry was watching on.The Australian Men's Sevens side claimed their third straight Cup title in San Jose. Photo: ARU Media"We kept a close eye on the San Jose tournament," Curry said in Suva ahead of the Oceania tournament.

"We sent a development team - a lot of young boys over to that tournament - and so they would have learnt a lot from that.

"We watched how the Aussies went over there and they definitely went really well.

"Coming here to Oceania, obviously it's different teams, but as a squad, you thrive off how other players are going in your squad."

The Australians have named a development side to tackle the Oceania tournament this weekend and that will allow New Zealand to try some different wrinkles added to their game by new coach Clark Laidlaw.

Scott Curry and New Zealand are eager to rise back up the World Series rankings. Photo: Getty Images"Last year we finished fourth in the World Series and we're obviously not happy with that," Curry said.

"We have got a new coach - Clark Laidlaw - and he has brought a lot of new ideas and new things which is really good and the boys are excited for a new World Series.

"It's a good build up for us coming to Fiji - we have typically gone to Dubai a little unprepared as a team - just because we come together post Mitre 10 Cup season and go straight into Sevens.

"So to come here and get a Sevens tournament against some pretty good teams is going to be good prep for Dubai."

While the NZ men's side are in a similar position to their Australian counterparts as both strive to climb the World Series rankings, the women's side for both nations are set to duke out it for the number one spot in 2017/18.

Sarah Goss's side were the dominant force on the World Series last season. Photo: Getty ImagesNew Zealand cemented a spot atop the World Series ranking in 2017 after Australia won gold at the Rio Olympics and NZ captain Sarah Goss said her side was used to being hunted, having been the hunters last year.

"We always look out for every team and wearing a black jersey, you're always being hunted anyway," she said.

"It's going to be a great year and a great competition knowing we have a Comm Games, a World Series and a World Cup to look forward to."

Goss said facing the Australian Sevens girls in the Oceania tournament would be a high quality tune up with the opening tournament, in Dubai, just three weeks away.

"It's been really good being able to play against Australia," Goss said.

"They are, I suppose, the next dominant team in the world at the moment and to have quality competition is always good for us."

The Oceania Sevens kick off on Friday in Suva, broadcast LIVE on the Oceania Sevens Facebook page.