Heat a major factor in Singapore
April 18, 2002

Singapore's scorching tropical weather could decide victory or defeat for the 16 teams contesting the eighth leg of the World Seven Series this weekend.

New Zealand, the Sevens world champions for the past two years, have their noses in front again after seven legs, but feel the weather will play a decisive part in how the sides perform on Saturday and Sunday.

"How well we respond to the heat and humidity here and in Malaysia may decide how we fare in the overall standings," said New Zealand captain Dallas Seymour.

"The challenge will come from the usual teams like Fiji, Samoa, England, Australia and South Africa, but it's the weather that can hurt us the most," he said.

Drawn in Pool A with Samoa, Japan and hosts Singapore, the reigning Sevens champions have opted for youth over experience in their squad.

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens said: "You can't buy experience. You can only gain experience. Over the last six months we had to try different players due to injuries. But everyone is keen and fighting for places, so hopefully we can clinch the series."

Five countries have won the title over the past seven legs, with the Kiwis capturing three of them - Durban (November 2001), Santiago (January 2002) and Beijing (March 2002).

As a result, New Zealand head the table with 118 points, with South Africa second on 92 and Fiji in third place with 86.

But the tables could turn in Singapore and Malaysia, where the 11-leg series will be held over April 27-28, as the hot and humid equatorial weather will be more suited to the South Pacific teams of Samoa and Fiji.

England come to Singapore on a high after their shock defeat of Fiji in the Hong Kong Sevens final and with celebrated winger Dan Luger (pictured) set to make his debut in the smaller code.

Coach Joe Lydon said the 27-year-old Luger's versatility made him an option for various positions, including the forward line.

"This is the first time that he will be wearing the England colours in the Sevens, so it will be big for him. Dan is open and is looking forward to playing Sevens rugby and fitting in with the team," he added.

The Hong Kong champions are drawn in Pool D with Argentina, Canada and China and will kick off the series in the muggy heat at on Saturday.

The weather remains as much a worry for the Singapore organisers as for the teams. Tropical downpours over the weekend could lead to empty spaces in the 10 000-seater National Stadium.

Only a handful turned out to see Singapore play archrivals Malaysia in a World Cup qualifier two weeks ago.

But with an investment of more than $1 million, the Singapore Sports Council and the Singapore Rugby Union are treating the series as a festival, hoping to sell the small but affluent city-state as an Asian sporting hub.

Pool A: New Zealand, Samoa, Japan and Singapore
Pool B: Fiji, Australia, South Korea and Malaysia
Pool C: South Africa, Wales, Scotland and Thailand
Pool D: England, Argentina, Canada and China

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