New Zealand favourites as sevens series continues
January 21, 2000

The draw has been announced for the latest leg of the World sevens series, which will be held in Wellington's new stadium on February 4-5.
This fifth tournament in the International Rugby Board's series will see South Africa and Hong Kong kicking it off, followed by the Australia-Japan match.
New Zealand head France, Tonga and a virtually unknown Cook Islands side in group A, while arch-rivals Fiji head Argentina, the United States and Papua New Guinea in group B.
Samoa's challengers in group C are Canada, Uruguay and Croatia and in group D South Africa will have Australia to contend with as well as Japan and Hong Kong.
The Cooks, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Croatia are largely unknown teams but they have left their marks in various tournaments over the past three years.
Papua New Guinea nearly upstaged Australia in last year's Fiji sevens while Hong Kong have always been competitive in their own annual tournaments.
With the likely addition of Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Dallas Seymour to the squad that won the Uruguay sevens and lost to Fiji in the Argentina tournament final recently, New Zealand are favourites to win in Wellington.
New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens will name his 15-member squad Saturday, the squad will be trimmed to 12 for the tournament.
With Super 12 squads kicking off their preparations this week, other leading sevens players such as Rua Tipoki, Orene Ai'i, Rico Gear and Bruce Reihana are unlikely to be picked by Tietjens.
Roger Randle, like Cullen and Lomu, is another who could return to sevens rugby in Wellington for the first time since he helped New Zealand win the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Tietjens is looking for more speed in the team and Randle and Wellington's Brad Fleming could be called in to support Karl Tenana.
In the forwards Matua Parkinson, who missed the South American leg of the series, could also be called into the forwards to provide some muscle in what is expected to be yet another New Zealand-Fiji showdown in the end.
The two teams have shared the four tournaments so far, New Zealand taking the Dubai and Uruguay titles and Fiji the South African and Argentinian tournaments.
Both teams have 72 points each but New Zealand have a superior for-against differential -- 787-161 to Fiji's 767-243.
However, flying Fijian Filimone Delasau has dominated the series with 55 tries in the four tournaments.

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