New Zealand favourites for next sevens challenge
January 31, 2000

The New Zealand sevens rugby team are overwhelming favourites to win this weekend's international sevens tournament in Wellington and skipper Eric Rush said Monday the players were desperate to win.

"We will be the ones putting the pressure on ourselves because we want to win this one and we want to win it badly," Rush said shortly after the squad arrived in Wellington.

"It's our first tournament at home and a couple of the guys (Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Karl Te Nana) are from here so we want to win it for them.

"But also in terms of where we are in the series. We go to Fiji next week and they will be hard to beat there so it makes it a must for us to win here."

New Zealand and Fiji share the lead in the 10 tournament series with two wins each from four tournaments, but New Zealand are runaway favourites to win on Saturday.

They are paying 1.20 NZ dollar (60 US cents) for a one dollar bet at the state owned betting agency compared to 4 dollars for Fiji . Third favourites Samoa are paying 15 dollars, while Australia are paying 18 dollars.

Rush said the side were coming together well, though the loss of Canterbury veteran Dallas Seymour with a back injury was a blow.

The inclusion of All Blacks Lomu and Cullen had given the squad a tremendous lift and there was a real buzz of excitement among the players.

"It's awesome. They are good players and we welcome them back in with open arms. The only danger is if we rely on them too much," Rush said.

Meanwhile, about 20,000 tickets have been sold for the opening day of the sevens on Friday, while the finals on Saturday are expected to be close to a sell-out.

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