We look at the four teams in Pool B at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas, and it looks every inch the group of death: New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and Scotland.
Coach: Sir Gordon Tietjens
2013/14 position (after 3 rounds): 1
USA 2013: Cup runners-up
2012/13 Series: Champions
The obvious headlines for New Zealand – other than Sir Gordon Tietjens now having a facebook page – are the loss of Tomasi Cama Joe Webber and Sherwin Stowers to injury at various times over the last week. Cama is still the best playmaker in the Sevens game, and one of the finest conversion kickers, but it must console the coach that he has a fine replacement in Gillies Kaka, plus the recalled Mark Jackman. DJ Forbes captains the side and with Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, Tim Mikkelson and Bryce Heem alongside him the backs can expect plenty of ball to play with. Stowers and Webber are big losses although Waisake Naholo and David Raikuna more-than-capable replacements, and young Ambrose Curtis’s Sevens career is only three events old but can already produce quite a showreel.
Coach: Ben Ryan
2013/14 position (after 3 rounds): 3
USA 2013: 4th
2012/13 Series: 3rd
Former captain Levani Botia is set to return to action for the first time since Ben Ryan took over as coach and there is a consistency in selection which was so obviously lacking last season. Osea ‘Oscar’ Kolinisau retains the captain’s armband, while the brilliant Pio Tuwai is back for more alongside the season’s joint-top try-scorers, Benito Masilvu and Samisoni Viriviri, the latter of whom is Montpellier-bound in June but committed to Sevens until then. It will be fascinating how Fiji and New Zealand approach playing each other for the first time since Fiji’s 44-0 whitewash in Dubai. The kiwis certainly won’t need much of a team talk for that one..
Coach: Michael O’Connor
2013/14 position (after 3 rounds): 5
USA 2013: Shield winners
2012/13 Series: 8th
Having finished second at their home event on the Gold Coast, it’s been tough for the Aussies since then, given their own high standards. They failed to reach the Cup quarters in both Dubai and South Africa, although they did win the Bowl in Dubai and finish runners-up in the Bowl to England in PE. The major team news is that captain Ed Jenkins injured himself in the gym in the few days prior to their departure – a major blow. From his last squad coach Michael O’Connor also bids farewell to Super Rugby-bound Sean McMahon as well as Queensland star Luke Morahan and James Stannard is injured, although Cameron Clark, Allan Fa’alava’au and Peter Schuster are all now fit. It’s a tough group to be faced with when trying to kick-start your season.
Coach: Stephen Gemmell
2013/14 position (after 3 rounds): 12
USA 2013: Plate runners-up
2012/13 Series: 13th
Coach Stephen Gemmell looks set to retain seven of the 12 players from the last round in South Africa as the Scots embark on a pool campaign which couldn’t really be any tougher. Captain Colin Gregor is there as a mainstay alongside Scott Riddell, Lee Jones, John Houston and Michael Maltman and they are all crucial to their chances. From the squad that competed in South Africa Mark Robertson, Andrew Turnbull, Joe Nayacavou, Mark Bennett and Jack Ferguson are all out, replaced by Finlay Gillies, Struan Dewar, James Johnstone, Russell Weir and debutant Scott Wight.