Singapore 7s Preview
April 20, 2002

A 26-point lead with four tournaments to go means that only a dramatic loss of form can prevent New Zealand from wrapping up their third consecutive IRB World Sevens Series (WSS) title a little earlier than the first two.

The chances of the Kiwis stumbling, but plenty of pride remains at stake
at this weekend's WSS Singapore 7's as the circuit moves into the home

While hoping to finish the series with a flourish, many coaches will
also have one eye on preparing their team for August's Commonwealth
Games, one of the other titles currently owned by New Zealand alongside
the Sevens World Cup.

Singapore, playing host to its first IRB WSS, at least has the luxury of
seeing an ever-growing number of possible contenders fight for the
weekend's glory.

New Zealand may have only won one of the last five tournaments, yet the
Kiwis will still run out at the National Stadium as the boys to beat.

Veteran Eric Rush, out with a broken hand, has been replaced as skipper
by his old partner-in-crime Dallas Seymour, making his first appearance
for New Zealand since the opening leg of the second world Series in
Durban 18 months ago.

Seymour played in every Hong Kong 7s between 1988 and 1999, winning four
times. He was also part of the gold medal-winning Commonwealth Games
squad of 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, where the IRB Series will move to next

Playmaker Orene Ai'i has been released from Crusaders Super 12 duty to
replace Hawke's Bay flanker Tafai Ioasa, while young North Harbour
halfback Chris Smylie has been called up for the injured sevens
specialist Jared Going.

Beaten 10-7 by Fiji in a muddy Hong Kong semi-final last month, Tietjens
will probably hope for drier conditions to allow his speedsters Joe
Rokocoko and Anthony Tuitavake to work their magic.

New Zealand face hosts Singapore, Japan and the ever-improving Samoa in
Pool A.

"Tukiti', as he is popularly known, has brought a youthful team with
little international experience but an intricate knowledge of sevens
rugby from a country that takes the abbreviated code far more seriously
than anyone else.

Absent because of club duties in France are stars Waisale Serevi and
Vili Satala, who performed so well in Hong Kong. But Maika Wainibitu is
back, as is, Nawaka lad Semisi Naevo to combine his ball-hunting skills
with those of new captain Mesake Davu.

Outright speed comes from two 22-year-olds debutant Nasoni Roko of
Naitasiri and Namosi centre Simeli Koroi. Tukiti's most interesting
selection is Suva fullback Ilaitia Takalaidau.

Fiji play in Pool B with Australia, giant-killers Korea and Malaysia.

South Africa, who spoiled the Kiwis' party in Wellington with their
first win over the New Zealanders since the 1997 World Cup, will be out
to make amends for the slip in Hong Kong where they were beaten 19-14 in
pool play to an effervescent Canada, who picked up their first points of
this series.

Captained by the masterful Paul Treu, the Springbok Sevens see the
return of forwards Helgard Brink and Barry Jacobsz while young Border
Bulldogs halfback Josh Fowles replaces the Cheetahs' Neil Powell.

"I was really impressed by Fowles' speed and playmaking abilities during
our training camp," Williams told the news agency SAPA. "Our toughest
challenge will be to contest better in first-phase possession. If our
speedsters like Brent Russell, Jean de Villiers and Egon Seconds can get
ball in space, they will score."

South Africa play Wales, Scotland and Thailand in pool matches.

New Hong Kong champions England, who became the first team from the
northern hemisphere to win the tournament in more than 20 years, have
been forced to leave behind skipper Phil Greening and Henry Paul, both
of whom had outstanding shortened-code debuts last month.

Wasps hooker Greening withdrew from the squad after picking up a leg
injury during his side's Zurich Premiership win over Saracens at
Vicarage Road.

England Sevens coach Joe Lydon said: " Greening was superb in Hong Kong
and his withdrawal is obviously disappointing. However, Jamie Noon of
Newcastle Falcons has accepted the captaincy in Phil's absence and Ben
Lewitt of Rugby Lions takes Phil's place."

England are also bolstered by powerful Test winger Dan Luger, whose
versatility, Lydon says, makes him an option for various positions,
including the forward line.

England meet Canada in their opening game in Singapore, followed by
Chinese Taipei and Argentina.

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